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Summer Jobs for Teenagers Are Life-Changing

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Young people throughout the United States have felt the brunt of the slow economic recovery from the Great Recession. In fact, over the last several years, the youth unemployment rate has increased dramatically across the nation. For minority teens, it's far worse. The July 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment rates for Black youth (28 percent) and Hispanic youth (18 percent) are higher than the 16 percent national average.

Particularly for city high school students, this pattern must change as low income and minority teens suffer from an employment rate as low as one in ten. Access to meaningful workforce development and employment programs have the capacity to set young people on the path to a long-term career while helping to decrease the unemployment rate. And, for at-risk high school students, having a meaningful job -- even for the summer -- has been shown to decrease their likelihood of dropping out of school.

Teenagers who have employment opportunities, mentoring and professional support early in their lives are far better equipped to meet the demands of the contemporary workforce than if they had entered mid-level or professional settings later in their career trajectories. Research, and common sense -- strongly indicates the benefits of early work exposure for young people and their employers.

Not only does summer employment offer direct experience in the workplace, research shows that employment reduces the high school dropout rate. And summer youth employment programs are especially important to guard against students dropping out of high school in cities like Jersey City with its racially and economically diverse high school youth population: for example, Black, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students are more likely to drop out of high school and take longer to graduate than other students.

Staying in school is just one benefit of a good summer job. High school teens who worked consistently (every year once they started working) over adolescence scored higher on standardized exams than inconsistent workers. Bluntly, consistent summer employment can be life-changing, especially for disadvantaged students.

That's why we have move aggressively in Jersey City to create summer job opportunities for the city's young people. The Jersey City Summer Works Initiative will offer summer jobs in both the public and private sectors, professional development, mentorship and enrichment activities for students ages 15 to 21. The Works Initiative will also provide opportunities to pursue certifications to develop career skills as well as paid internships with prominent companies and institutions in the city.

Major Jersey City employers are supporting the program's paid internship program, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs, Federal Farm Credit Banks Funding Corporation, Fidelity, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation, Hyatt Regency, Hugo Neu, Jersey City Medical Center, Eastern Millwork, Inc., United Water Resources, Tropicana, Hudson County Community College, and New Jersey City University.

These summer jobs will help as building blocks for a brighter future for the city's teens. Community-based jobs offered through the city over the summer provide teens a variety of employment options, giving them the chance to begin their work experience at the age of 15 in a part-time municipal job and progress to more challenging and more competitive positions like the Summer Internship Program by the time they are high school seniors. This will help our teens gain a strengthened concept of self through exposure to professional workplaces and career options, and thus increased optimism and resiliency -- key ingredients for later success in college and career.

The Jersey City Summer Works Initiative is one that can be replicated in cities throughout the nation. It's an important step to creating a more optimistic and successful city where no one is left behind.