Example of an Effective City and Community Organization Partnership for Youth Employment in NYC
Summer employment program that places youth in paid entry-level positions at community-organizations provides unexpected benefits for all stakeholders.
In summer 2009 I worked with a small arts education non-profit in NYC. My role included managing a diverse group of 14-24 year olds who had been placed with us via NYC’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). This lottery-based employment program provides entry-level minimum wage jobs with community-based organizations throughout NYC. The wages are paid by the city, not the community-based organization, and in exchange, the SYEP Employers commit to providing on-the-job training, mentorship, and meaningful work assignments for youth employees. The Department of Youth and Community Development, which administers the SYEP program, provides additional workshops in job readiness, career exploration, and financial literacy for the youth participants.
Photo from an art education program that benefited from youth employees' input and assistance in summer 2009.
From my perspective as a youth employee manager at an SYEP employer, this program was a triple win:
Youth employees gain professional experience and a salary while strengthening their ties to their community and making new professional contacts.
SYEP Employers, many who are under-staffed and under-resourced, gain much needed support and assistance in the office. For the arts education organization I worked with, not only did we gain assistance on day-to-day administrative projects, but we also gained a much needed youth perspective on the arts programs we offer. The SYEP youth employees helped co-create art curricula with our instructors to be used during the school year, thereby strengthening our programs and empowering our youth employees to participate as a creator and not just a consumer of education.
NYC City Government benefits by providing skills and training to the next generation workforce and by supporting the community-based organizations that make NYC vibrant and provide much-needed services to residents.
I think SYEP is an effective model and that it’s worth exploring how it could be expanded and transferred to other locales.
A few open questions include: How do we make over-stretched local governments understand that the long term benefits of youth employment programs are worth the short-term costs?
How do we engage and reach more youth with these types of programs and opportunities?
How can community-based organizations continue to see youth as assets and thought-partners in their programming, rather than just recipients of community programs?