The Washington Post, July 2023
Every summer, teens and young adults across the country fill their bags, pack lunches and head to work — thanks to summer youth jobs programs. These initiatives, which have become ubiquitous nationwide, are beloved by politicians and constituents alike. They aim to perform myriad functions: helping connect youths to employment opportunities, offering them income and marketable skills, and dissuading them from risky behavior.
Those are worthy—and urgent—goals. With juvenile crime rates surging and teen mental health a critical concern, policymakers hope these schemes can help set America’s youths on a better path. But achieving so much is a tall order for any policy, and summer youth employment programs are often hampered by unclear priorities and inconsistent financing.
Now, many local governments, bolstered by funding from the American Rescue Plan, are making new investments in summer jobs programs. If those resources are spent effectively, cities and counties could revitalize summers to provide young people — particularly from low-income and marginalized backgrounds — with lasting gains.