Universal Summer Internship Program Would Boost Economy, Report Says

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

A new report from the Community Service Society of New York advocates for the need for a universal summer internship program for the youth of New York City.  The authors suggest that such a program is necessary in order to provide all students with the opportunity to find a place in the workforce and gain the soft skills they will need to succeed in the future.

The report, “The Case for a National Universal Summer Internship Program,” agrees with findings from a previous report from the Brookings Institute that suggests high quality summer jobs benefit all students, along with an argument for a sizable federal investment in competitive grants to boost quality programs throughout the country.  However, the recent report states that summer internship positions should be made available to all high school students who want to participate within their school, district, or community.

The authors go on to say that the key component of their proposal lies within the term “universal.”  They say that historically, the quality of programs and public support for them increase when they provide benefits to all segments of the population.

Youth across the nation are continually having difficulty finding work, as the unemployment rate for those between the ages of 16 and 21 is much higher than it is for adults.  The authors say that this is even more so in cities such as Chicago, where youth unemployment rates are three times that of adults.  In areas like Cleveland, the youth unemployment rate is almost 50%.  These rates have dire effects for youth, with one study finding jobless teenagers were less likely to hold a job four to five years later.

Such unemployment can disproportionately affect disadvantaged youth, with previous research showing that higher education can be a substitute for early work experience for middle and higher income teens. Lower-income youth who do not work early on tend to have lower rates of employment and earnings as adults.

The report says that benefits increase when young people are able to find jobs.  One study found that for every year a teenager is able to work, their income will rise an average of 15% during their 20′s.  Additional research states that employment during the teenage years contributes to higher earnings over the course of a lifetime, helps to develop cognitive skills including time management and determination, and could even help to reduce crime through youth spending more time on structured, supervised activities.

While summer is seen as the time when young people have the highest chances of finding employment, teens across the nation are 40% less likely to find a summer job today than they were in 2000.  The authors say the positive relationship between family income and summer youth employment is “troubling,” with teenagers from households earning less than $20,000 50% being less likely to find summer employment than those from households earning more than $100,000.

“Today’s labor market is no longer providing young people with the opportunities to obtain jobs on their own, and acquire the skills and experiences that both they and our economy need for long-term success.”