SummerWorks program providing 80 youth with summer jobs

Helping Southwest Washington increase the number of young people with access to quality summer work experiences, Workforce Southwest Washington (WSW) recently secured a $50,000 grant from JPMorgan Chase. The grant will assist in preparing the region’s young people for the future of work through new approaches to Summer Youth Employment Programs (SYEP), guiding them on a path to greater economic mobility.

For summer 2021, WSW is expecting 80 young adults to participate in it SummerWorks program, a 100-hour internship, with approximately 40 businesses hosting the interns. Before the internship begins, youth complete a 40-hour job readiness course that touches on time management, communications and teamwork, among other topics.

Due to the COVID pandemic, internships will be a hybrid of in-person and virtual. Students will be working at a variety of organizations and learning skills that will be useful in future jobs. Youth will be helping to care for animals and clean shelters at humane societies, helping deliver and organize food at local food banks, learning customer service and other skills at local shops and stores, and doing data entry, social media and research projects.

SYEPs help equip young people with the skills and experiences they need to succeed and bridge the gap between the demand for summer jobs and the number of available positions. With the COVID-19 crisis and associated economic impact leading to less access to summer jobs, young adults are relying on part-time work and internships to support themselves and their families. Historically, economic downturns disproportionately impact young people, especially young people of color. That’s why SummerWorks, with support from JPMorgan Chase, is working to provide young people with virtual learning experiences, career mentoring and other opportunities to learn about postsecondary options for promising career pathways.

In addition to income, young people also need meaningful learning experiences that provide opportunities to learn and build transferrable skills. To help ensure young people have access to opportunity during this time, SummerWorks and JP Morgan Chase are supporting innovative approaches to regular summer youth employment programming such as shifting career readiness and work-based learning programs to virtual settings (e.g., new web-based curricula, online mentoring).

“We learned a lot about innovation during 2020 when we had to pivot during the pandemic and make the program 100 percent virtual,” said Kevin Perkey, CEO of Workforce Southwest Washington. “Our young people and businesses are resilient and the move to online pioneered a series of innovative new virtual internships.”

“Between persistent racial injustice, the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic downturn, it’s been a challenging time for families across the country,” said Cat Martin, corporate responsibility program officer for JPMorgan Chase. “And especially in under-resourced communities, young people are being hit particularly hard. That’s why JPMorgan Chase is working with cities including Vancouver to address this problem by identifying innovative strategies for reconnecting young people to work-based learning experiences. Summer jobs provide students with a meaningful learning work-based experience, source of income, chance to build professional networks, and pride in their ability to contribute to their families and communities.”

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Joanna Yorke is the managing editor of the Vancouver Business Journal. She has worked in the journalism field since 2010 after graduating from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University in Pullman. Yorke worked at The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground for six years and then worked at and helped start ClarkCountyToday.com.