Boston’s Summer Youth Employment Program: Building a More Holistic Workforce Development System for Boston’s Youth

In Boston, as many as 10,000 youth participate in the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) every year at hundreds of businesses, nonprofit organizations, and city departments where they learn valuable and important skills that set them up for future success. The Boston program operates as a coordinated ecosystem that proved highly resilient during COVID and was a key factor in ensuring that the Boston SYEP could pivot to a hybrid format. Each summer, youth are placed into jobs through one of five intermediary organizations, each of which serves a different target population based on their needs.

During the summer of 2020, the intermediaries came together to develop four new tracks of programming to enable youth to safely engage in meaningful activities. As a result, the City invested an additional $4.1 million of CARES Act funding into the SYEP to employ the same number of youth, at the same number of hours, and at the same rate of pay during the summer of 2020. In the spirit of building back better after COVID, the City of Boston and the other SYEP intermediaries recognize the importance of increasing coordination and alignment across the ecosystem. To lead this effort, the Office of Youth Employment and Opportunity (OYEO) has deepened its research-practice partnership with Northeastern University under a new multi-year project funded by the William T. Grant Foundation.

This report is the culmination of the Year 1 activities which included extensive data collection, rigorous analyses, and a strategic planning effort that focuses on the City’s summer jobs program and the role it plays in the broader SYEP ecosystem. The findings inform a set of recommendations to inform the collective efforts of Boston SYEP stakeholders and provide a blueprint for future implementation through this Summer Jobs Consortium.