07/19/2012 06:01 pm ET Updated Sep 18, 2012

Summer Jobs Set The Framework For Future Success

This summer, teenagers are going to be looking for work, but about one in five won't find a job. The teen unemployment rate -- currently at 23.7 percent nationally -- is the highest for any group in the U.S. In fact, some analysts are even predicting that summer jobs for teens might be a thing of the past.

My first job waiting tables at a restaurant in Massachusetts provided me with more than a paycheck; I gained valuable job skills. Anyone who has waited tables will tell you that the dinner rush certainly teaches you how to manage your time and balance competing demands. When the inevitable order went wrong, I learned how to provide good customer service and communicate a solution. And when I did get that paycheck, I could make my own decisions about whether to save or spend it.

For the young people who do find work this summer, they will not only have their first job, but an experience that will also set them on a path for success. And for too many families in these tough economic times, the extra income earned by teenagers contributes to a family's overall finances. Learning to excel in the workplace, meet deadlines, and contribute as a team member builds character, a valuable network, and the skills necessary for future workforce success.

The studies, including one from Northeastern University, back this up. Holding down a job in the teenage years translates into better employability skills and higher lifetime earnings. The benefits don't stop at just the individual level either. Communities with low youth employment rates have high social costs, including higher rates of teen pregnancy, juvenile crime, gang activity, and lower academic performance.

At Bank of America this summer, we're making summer jobs possible for more than 1,000 young people. This year, we launched the Summer Youth Employment Initiative, a partnership with the U.S. Conference of Mayors. This program provides more than 800 at-risk teens with summer jobs at local nonprofits and businesses in 19 communities across the country. It is projected that this summer, similar to previous years, state and federal funds to support teen employment will be extremely limited. This initiative will help meet a critical need to fill these funding gaps.

There are also benefits for the communities. For example, in Houston, the initiative created 26 new jobs at the Park and Recreation department for young people to register guests at city pools. In past years, the lifeguards had to do this task, which meant with one less lifeguard, fewer people could be in the pool at any one time. Now the lifeguards can focus on their job and more people can enjoy the public pools.

Similar positive impacts are happening in other cities across the country. For example, in New York City, students are starting internships throughout the five boroughs. Our support created a new program to provide 100 students with internships in the information technology field, along with career development sessions. This provides practical skills and helps young people explore future job options. Our partnership in Charlotte allowed nonprofits to participate in the mayor's program and 68 summer jobs were created at local nonprofits like Crisis Assistance Ministry.

In addition to the Summer Youth Employment Initiative, our Student Leaders® program, now in its 9th year, provides 225 community-minded high school juniors and seniors across the U.S. with a paid eight-week internship at local nonprofit organizations like YMCA, the Boys & Girls Club and other local community nonprofits.

We're also making $15 million available to fund nonprofits that help the unemployed and underserved, including young people, gain the training and education opportunities that
translate into employment and post-secondary success. We want to help teenagers get their first summer job, or -- for the many unemployed adults -- provide the skills needed to get back to work.

We consider our focus on jobs as an investment in the local communities we serve. By helping thousands of people get back to work, we aim to fuel the economic recovery and ensure long-term prosperity. But first, it begins this summer, getting teenagers their first jobs.