What is the NYC Center for Youth Employment?

On May 5, 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray announced the creation of the NYC Center for Youth Employment. The Center will coordinate and expand efforts to connect New York City’s young people to opportunities for career exposure, summer jobs, quality skills-building programs, supportive mentors, and thoughtful guidance towards college and a career.

Conceived and launched by the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City in collaboration with City agencies and private partners, the Center is supported by a multi-million dollar commitment from the city’s business and philanthropic community. Founding partners include Citi Foundation, Arcus Foundation, Goldman Sachs Gives, The James Family Charitable Foundation, Macy’s Inc., Tishman Speyer, and the Partnership for New York City. The Center is part of the Administration’s Career Pathways strategy, which re-envisions the City’s workforce development and education programs to connect more New Yorkers to quality employment.

What problem is the Center trying to solve?

Far too many young New Yorkers are reaching adulthood without the job skills, work experiences and supportive personal networks necessary to make a successful transition to employment and careers. Without opportunities in their teens to explore their interests, hone their skills and begin building social and professional networks, too many of our young people struggle to find a path to economic security.

The problem is of a scale beyond the capacity of government alone to address. To take just one example, the annual Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), managed by the NYC Department for Youth and Community Development (DYCD), is by far the largest summer jobs initiative in the United States: in 2015, it placed more than 54,000 New Yorkers ages 14 to 24 into paid employment for six weeks. The program received more than 131,000 applications, however. Given the low rates of youth employment in New York City – which ranks near the bottom among the 100 largest U.S. cities in employment rate for 16 to 19 year olds and 20 to 24 year olds – it is likely that most of those not enrolled in SYEP did not find paid work last summer.

As a project of the Mayor’s Fund—an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit organization—the Center for Youth Employment is intentionally positioned between the private sector, city government, philanthropy and the provider community. We work to incorporate and align the various perspectives and priorities of those different stakeholder groups in support of our City’s youth and young adults. The Center’s mission ultimately is to deliver more and better work experiences and opportunities for this vital population.

What is the goal of the Center?

Mayor de Blasio has set a target that by 2020 the City will offer 100,000 summer jobs, mentorships, and internships each year for New Yorkers ages 14 to 24. The Center will work collaboratively with our agency partners, the business community, and philanthropic leaders to achieve this goal, utilizing existing programs and creating new ones to fill service gaps and helping to inform changes in public policy.

The Center’s specific priorities are as follows:

  1. Enhance and build upon the City’s summer and year-round jobs programs into a more systemic framework for youth workforce development.
  2. Support career and technical education (CTE) in New York City by working to ensure that every CTE school has a committed employer partner that helps to support meaningful linkages between classroom and workplace
  3. Help provide universal access to summer employment experiences and workplace supports for “vulnerable youth”
  4. Introduce and expand career guidance programs for middle- and high-school students and for youth in alternative educational and community-based settings
  5. Develop systems to expand, deepen and support engagement points with employers and industry.

A key to progress across all four priorities, and to achieving the overall goal of 100,000 work experiences per year, will be to create, maintain and improve strong systems focused on business partner recruitment and support. As “end users” of the youth employment system, employers have an invaluable perspective that we must incorporate and leverage to help youth and young adults prepare for jobs and careers.

If the Center’s goal is to create 100,000 jobs, internships and related opportunities, what is the current number?

Among the Center’s first priorities was to create an inventory of youth employment programs supported with public funds. For Fiscal Year 2015, we found that all City programs combined to deliver approximately 65,000 program slots. We project that for Fiscal Year 2016 (July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016), the total will rise to about 77,000.

Will the Center create and operate programs?

The Center primarily will serve to improve and expand existing programs to help young New Yorkers gain work experience, skills and career direction. While current programs have many commendable elements and are delivering value for those New Yorkers who can participate, the Center is committed to achieving “more and better”: significantly increasing capacity toward the Mayor’s goal of 100,000 annual work experiences, and ensuring that all of them deliver long-term benefits for helping youth and young adults achieve their longer term career aspirations. The Center will work toward this goal by scaling up existing efforts and, as appropriate, collaborating with our government and funding partners to help them launch new programs.

How important is early work experience for young people?

Career exposure and exploration offers enormous value for teens and young adults from low-income families in particular, in two respects: helping augment their future earning power, and helping to keep participants safe and out of trouble. Teens that have early exposure to the world of work through summer and year-round employment, internships and service opportunities enjoy greater likelihood of consistent employment and higher earning potential as adults. Individuals who work in their mid-teens are more likely to work in their late teens, and more likely to have steady employment and higher earnings into their 20s and beyond.

In addition to the economic benefits, providing adequate employment opportunities for our City’s youth also saves lives and stems the pipeline of youth to the prison system. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School found that participation in SYEP reduced deaths from “external” causes. Furthermore, a reduction in the incarceration rate was found among those participants 19 years and older. Similarly, a recent report by the University of Chicago Crime Lab found that youth who received a summer job were less likely to be arrested for violent crimes, because they had found alternative ways to earn money and did not have idle time over the summer.