Atlanta’s summer jobs program nearing goal of employing 3,000 young people
Last month Mayor Andre Dickens promised to employ scores of young people in his Summer Youth Employment Program.
By Allison Joyner
As the national unemployment rate maintains its position at 3.6 percent, the city of Atlanta’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) hopes to reach an ambitious benchmark from years past.
Dickens announced this new program in his guest column last month in SaportaReport, which explained the concept behind creating this initiative. City departments like Fire and Rescue, the Department of Corrections, Parks and Recreation and the Office of Film and Entertainment will expose young folks to different aspects of the day-to-day operations of running Georgia’s capital city. Young people ages 14 to -24 can enroll in the program, which will provide internships, apprenticeships, career exploration and earn-to-learn opportunities.
His goal of securing 3,000 young adults with employment during summer break aims to create added education that was missing in previous programs.
“The program serves a dual purpose of youth development to mitigate the learning loss and lack of opportunities due to the pandemic as well as a public safety measure to ensure our young people have safe activities for the summer,” said Janean Lewis, Senior Director for the Mayor’s Division of Youth Engagement.
She added that Dickens is motivated after the minimal impact of participation in past summer job programs. “Last year, we simply posted opportunities and left it at that,” said Lewis.
She met with Dickens during the first ten days of his administration and he asked her how the program tracked success and supported the young people employed by the city.
The pandemic also didn’t help turnout over the previous two summers. Applications rates were dismal.
Like all major cities, Atlanta has seen an increase in job openings with few people willing to fill them. However, now that school has ended at local high schools and colleges, projections predict temporary relief.
Researchers at Drexel University’s Center for Labor Markets and Policy predicted an average of 33 percent of youths ages 16 to 19 would be employed each month from June through August this year, almost reaching the highest rate of 34 percent in the summer of 2007.
Both Dickens and Lewis emphasize their need to lean on the longstanding relationships to make this program successful.
“I am asking Atlanta businesses, corporations, nonprofits, philanthropists, tech start-ups, news outlets, entertainment organizations and the academic community to look within their respective circles to identify positions that can be filled,” Dickens wrote in his column.
Lewis told SaportReport that the mayor’s office has been coordinating with the Atlanta Public School district to ensure work permits are being completed and utilizing MARTA to provide transportation for them to get to work safely and on time. The SYEP also provides weekly professional development workshops on executive functioning skills — like resume writing and interview preparation — that they will need throughout their careers.
Now weeks into the program, Lewis confirmed that nearly 2,000 Atlanta youth had been placed in various opportunities, 75 percent closer to the initial 3,000 goal.
“By hiring them to work in summer jobs, we can enable them to learn, grow, be exposed to opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise and earn money at the same time,” Dickens said.
There are still spots available for young people interested in applying for the City of Atlanta’s Summer Youth Employment Program. Click here for more information.