City of Phoenix providing paid internships through Youth Reach and Invest in Summer Employment program
Phoenix, AZ | Submitted by Kweilin Waller
Since 2013, the City of Phoenix, Human Services Department Business and Workforce Development Division has provided nearly 600 paid summer internships to young adults, ages 16 to 24 through its Phoenix Youth R.I.S.E. (Reach and Invest in Summer Employment) program. The program offers subsidized wages for youth who work with selected employers during the summer months (up to 200 hours), provides work readiness training and builds pathways to success through education, skill building and employment.
Phoenix Youth R.I.S.E. is a collaboration of employers from high-demand sectors (Advanced Business Services, Construction, Healthcare, IT and Manufacturing) paired with a two-day work readiness training program that features financial empowerment and literacy. The City of Phoenix oversees the program and recruits summer youth participants and employers who serve as mentors for the worksites.
Statistics have shown that a lack of early work experience can negatively affect employment and earnings later in life. In the U.S., unemployment rate for teens is at 11% as of July 2018, which is two to three times higher than any other demographic. Over half of unemployed teens report that they are searching for their first job, which suggests that fewer pathways to the labor market exist. Youth of color face the greatest difficulties, especially those from low-income neighborhoods. Summer youth employment programs are a popular strategy in many communities to ensure that youth gain valuable workforce experience and have a safe, productive way to spend their time.
According to the 2018 Measure of America Report, the Phoenix Metropolitan Area has one of the highest rates (14%) of opportunity youth ages 16-24 who are not currently enrolled in school or employed among major metropolitan areas across the country. It is estimated that in Phoenix, 1 in 7 youth ages 16-24 or 75,200 youth, are disconnected from employment and educational opportunities. Opportunity youth are largely youth of color who have experienced multiple life barriers such as criminal justice histories, housing instability or mental health issues. These intersecting challenges create barriers to accomplishing their educational and employment goals, which in turn can contribute to high rates of school dropout and unemployment as well as economic costs to taxpayers and society. Even when opportunity youth are enrolled in educational opportunities, they experience higher rates of attendance problems, including truancy and dropout. Likewise, when employed, opportunity youth typically hold low-pay, entry level positions with limited opportunities for career advancement.
The Business and Workforce Development Division’s approach is to serve youth most in need through the Phoenix Youth R.I.S.E. program and target the areas in Phoenix where there are high concentrations of opportunity youth.
The R.I.S.E. program has been so successful that many businesses hire their interns after the 5-week program. Of those that participate, 92 percent state that they would be participating again. One called it, “a fantastic experience. RISE interns were eager and ready to work, excited to learn new things and willing to try. I highly recommend this program. Each intern had unique skills to bring to the table and we appreciated them all.” Another noted that their “intern was definitely an asset to our department. We received positive responses from everyone he assisted.”
Thanks to the internships, youth were able to gain valuable work experience, grow a professional network and earn money. Not to mention the insights they gathered into their future professional endeavors. Here is what some had to say about their experience:
- “It broadened my horizon of careers I have in mind to pursue after high school. I realized I had skills I didn’t know I had that would aid me in multiple jobs.”
- “I have understood more people and how they are. I was able to connect with others and their different life and personal experiences and problems. This experience has made me open up more about jobs that I should or can get when I grow up.”
- “I already had an idea of what i was going to do for career and college, but the summer internship showed me skills that allowed me to solidify my thoughts.”