Why summer jobs matter

March 31, 2014  |  14 comments

By Brandee McHale, COO, Citi Foundation
Amy Rosen, President and CEO, NFTE

Whether your summer job was career-launching, fun or just different, it’s likely that the experience helped shape who you are today. Everyone who’s had one knows summer jobs are great opportunities to uncover or polish job skills, begin to build a network and maybe most important truly discover your passions and interests.

For many, a summer job is a gateway to a career. For others, they are a financial necessity.

It’s troubling therefore, that the rate of summer employment among young Americans is on the decline. Over the last decade (2000-2011), the percentage of young adults in summer jobs has dropped double-digits. As of 2011, just 54% of white teenagers had summer jobs. For black and Hispanic teens, the numbers were lower – 34% and 39% respectively.

When teens miss summer jobs, they miss more than work experience. For many, summer paychecks provide the first lessons in managing money. But even more important are the habits of work they could be learning, the mentors they could be meeting and the vital skills – such as collaboration – they need to be acquiring.

With U.S. teen unemployment already running, on average, three times the rate for adults, losing out on a summer job is a real setback. But high unemployment has a double penalty. It also means fewer available jobs – even summer ones. And if you live a neighborhood where opportunities are scarce, a summer job may be even harder to find.

That’s why NFTE and the Citi Foundation are teaming up to bring the power of entrepreneurship to young people so they can make their own summer jobs. And maybe even enterprises that extend beyond summer.

And we’re focused on bring those opportunities to the communities which need them most.

The Citi Foundation’s $50 million Pathway to Progress initiative is investing to bring NFTE’s hands-on entrepreneurship training to ten cities, funding a NFTE business accelerator program in New York City and Los Angeles and extending NFTE’s reach to all young people through a youth web community at makeyourjob.org.  

With Citi Foundation’s support, NFTE BizCamps – the hands-on NFTE training – will reach hundreds of young people in New York City, Newark, Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Bridgeport (CT), Miami, Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.

These young people will learn how to approach and solve problems with an entrepreneurship mindset – recognizing opportunities and adapting to overcome setbacks. They will use math and writing skills to prepare business plans and present their ideas to local business leaders.

And a sub-set of the young people in New York and Los Angeles, who have already completed NFTE’s first course, will be chosen for Startup Summer – NFTE’s business accelerator program.

Startup Summer is itself a summer job – paying teens to take their business ideas into the marketplace. Youth participants will work with mentors to refine their plans and products and pitch real investors for real startup capital.

Layered on these exciting opportunities will be MakeYourJob.org (launching in May) which will cover the basics of building your own job through entrepreneurship. The free web portal will be interactive, reward-based and founded in the successful NFTE entrepreneurship fundamentals. 

With these three programs, the Citi Foundation and the NFTE “Make Your Job” collaboration will open doors of life-long opportunity and jobs for countless teens across the nation this summer.  An investment which will pay outsized dividends in the impact it will have on participating students, families, and communities.

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