The time has come again for the New York City youth to start applying for the opportunity to get a job for the summer of 2016 through the Summer Youth Employment Program. Though it may not seem as important as applying for college, SYEP provides real job experience and a paycheck—but is far too limited in its scope, advocates say.
Last week, the Community Service Society of New York proposed a year-round, mostly New York City-funded youth employment program.
A Thursday meeting of the City Council’s Committee on Youth Services heard that out of the 131,897 applications for last summer’s Summer Youth Employment Program, only 54,263 youth were selected through the lottery process. SYEP targets underprivileged youth and places them at government agencies, summer camps, non-profits and other jobs, where they are paid minimum wage.
The report authored by Community Service Society director of youth policy Lazar Treschan noted that the shortage of slots was just one weakness of the current program. By operating only in the summer, SYEP fails to connect students’ work with their studies, and therefore fails to forge a connection that research indicates is valuable to many youth, but particularly those facing high barriers to career success.
CSS [full disclosure: They’re a City Limits funder] proposes a re-branded NYC Summer Internship Program offering a guaranteed year-round job and support services for all city high-school students beginning after ninth grade, with community-based organizations and schools working together to align the work to each pupil’s studies.
CSS estimates that of the 380,000 students who would be eligible 100,000 would actually take a job. Along with a smaller, 10,000-slot program for young people beyond high school (SYEP currently serves people through age 24), the program would cost $242 million a year. Federal SYEP money would cover some of that cost, but $163 million would need to be found.
“A funding gap of $163 million would represent a significant new investment,” CSS acknowledges. “But that figure would be considerably less than the $300 million raised for the recent establishment of universal pre-kindergarten education, and less than the approximately $200 million recently added to expand access to afterschool programming for middle schoolers.”
While nabbing that funding could prove challenging, last week’s Council hearing revealed the current SYEP model faces challenges of its own. The rise of the state’s minimum wage will make it costlier to serve the same number of students. And there are complaints about how long students have to wait to learn whether they have a slot or not.
“This year as well as every year but especially this year we want to work together with [the administration] with plans to put more funding for all the young people in New York City,” Councilmember Mathieu Eugene, the chairperson of the Committee on Youth Services, told the hearing. “We want to continue a good partnership with DYCD to make this happen.”