Summer work experience programs

Summer work experience programs provide short-term employment for youth, usually 14-24 year olds. Offered through both public and private sector organizations, placements are often in low-skill positions. Programs usually focus on creating opportunities for youth in low income families and may include job search support or academic components.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased employment

  • Increased earnings

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Improved student attendance

  • Decreased violence

  • Increased job skills

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that summer work experience programs increase employment and earnings for youth during the year that they participate (MDRC-Valentine 2017, , PPV-McClanahan 2004), especially disadvantaged youth (). Youth work experience programs are also a suggested strategy to build employment history and skills (Sum 2008). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

Evaluations of federally supported, state-implemented programs suggest summer youth employment may increase soft skills (Mathematica-Rosenberg 2011) and work readiness skills (Mathematica-Bellotti 2010), and provide personal and professional development opportunities for at-risk youth (BHS-Curnan 2010). Summer jobs provided through New York City’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) may increase the likelihood of taking and passing statewide exams, particularly among high-risk students (), but do not appear to increase school attendance, high school graduation (MDRC-Valentine 2017), or college enrollment (MDRC-Valentine 2017, ). Such programs may also decrease the risk of incarceration and mortality for up to three years, especially among disadvantaged youth (). An evaluation of One Summer Plus in Chicago suggests summer jobs may reduce violence among low income black youth one year after program participation ().

Despite immediate positive employment effects, summer work experience programs do not appear to increase employment rates in years after program participation (MDRC-Valentine 2017, , PPV-McClanahan 2004), perhaps due to the short length of the intervention (PPV-McClanahan 2004) or because participants might have found longer term job opportunities without program support ().

Impact on Disparities

Likely to decrease disparities

Implementation Examples

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act requires that local communities that receive youth formula funds spend at least 20% of those funds on work experience activities such as summer jobs, pre-apprenticeship, on-the-job training, and internships (US DOL-WOIA). The Summer Youth Employment Program in New York City, Seattle, and Washington DC (), and Los Angeles’ Hire L.A. Youth (Hire LA Youth) are examples of summer work experience programs.

Implementation Resources

NSLA-Resources - National Summer Learning Association (NSLA). Resources for Communities.

YG-Summer - Youth.gov (YG), Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (IWGYP). Supporting summer youth employment programs.

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Mathematica-Bellotti 2010 - Bellotti J, Rosenberg L, Sattar S, Esposito AM, Ziegler J. Reinvesting in America’s youth: Lessons from the 2009 recovery act summer youth employment initiative. Princeton: Mathematica Policy Research (MPR); 2010.

BHS-Curnan 2010 - Curnan SP, Hahn AB, Bailis LN, et al. Innovating under pressure: The story of the 2009 recovery act summer youth employment initiative: Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis & Marion County, Phoenix & Maricopa County. Waltham: Center for Youth and Communities, Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University; 2010.

Sum 2008 - Sum A, McLaughlin J. Out with the young and in with the old: US labor markets 2000-2008 and the case for an immediate jobs creation program for teens and young adults. Boston: Center for Labor Market Studies Publications, Northeastern University; 2008.

Gelber 2016* - Gelber A, Isen A, Kessler JB. The effects of youth employment: Evidence from New York City lotteries. The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 2016;131(1):423-460.

Heller 2014* - Heller SB. Summer jobs reduce violence among disadvantaged youth. Science. 2014;346(6214):1219-1223.

Leos-Urbel 2014* - Leos-Urbel J. What is a summer job worth? The impact of summer youth employment on academic outcomes. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. 2014;33(4):891-911.

PPV-McClanahan 2004 - McClanahan WS, Sipe CL, Smith TJ. Enriching summer work: An evaluation of the summer career exploration program. Philadelphia: Public/Private Ventures (PPV); 2004.

Mathematica-Rosenberg 2011 - Rosenberg L, Angus MH, Pickens C, Derr M. Using TANF funds to support subsidized youth employment: The 2010 summer youth employment initiative. Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research; 2011.

MDRC-Valentine 2017 - Valentine EJ, Anderson C, Hossain F, Unterman R. An introduction to the world of work: A study of the implementation and impacts of New York City's summer youth employment program. New York: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC); 2017.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Gelber 2016* - Gelber A, Isen A, Kessler JB. The effects of youth employment: Evidence from New York City lotteries. The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 2016;131(1):423-460.

US DOL-WOIA - US Department of Labor (US DOL) Employment and Training Administration (ETA). Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act: WIOA Overview.

Hire LA Youth - City of Los Angeles. Hire LA’s Youth.

Date Last Updated

Dec 27, 2016