A report issued by the Brookings Institution finds that the employment prospects for teens and young adults has plummeted since 2000. The SummerWorks youth employment program was initiated in 2009 to address this crisis, and over the past five years has placed 2,535 youth in summer jobs. 

Nationally, over 5 million young people ages 16 to 24 are both out of school and out of work - a statistic with dire economic and social consequences. The news is no better here at home. There are over 34,000 young people in the Portland-Vancouver Metro region who are not in school or working, and 1,500 more are likely to drop out of high school this year. From 2000 - 2011, the Portland-Vancouver metro area had the 25th largest drop in youth employment in the country, going from 44.4% to 26%. And for low-income youth and youth of color, employment rates are as low as 12%. 

A young person's lack of work experience can have a negative impact on his/her long-term employment and earnings.

Putting young people to work is more than a paycheck. There is no better place to learn the skills necessary to be successful at work than work itself. Youth who work are more likely to return to school, have a job in subsequent years, and earn more money over the course of their lives. They are also less likely to engage in crime and other high-risk behaviors.

Last year, 500 local youth got jobs through SummerWorks. See a video of some of their stories.

How the program works:

It's simple! A sponsorship of $2,000 covers all the wages and other employment costs for a 180-hour work experience for a youth. Worksystems funds work readiness training for all youth participants and pays all the costs associated with screening and matching youth to job sites, job coaching throughout the work experience, and employer-of-record services. Youth show up ready to do real work.

To sponsor a youth or for more information on this program, contact Sabrina Van Artsdalen.

Results of the program since its inception in 2009:

  • 90% of youth completed their work experience and received a positive evaluation from their supervisor.
  • 93% of participating employers would recommend the program to colleagues.
  • 93% of youth returned to high school, post-secondary school, or became employed.
  • 94% of youth were low-income; 71% were youth of color.
  • An analysis of the program found that $1.20 returned to our local economy for every $1.00 spent on youth wages.

SummerWorks featured in the Portland Tribune and on KGW News!