Citing pandemic effects, Walsh adjusts program on teen summer employment

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is modifying the city’s summer youth employment program to adjust for the COVID-19 pandemic in an effort to make up for the windfall of job losses due to the economic shutdowns from the pandemic.

“Boston’s summer jobs program is one of the best opportunities for our youth to stay engaged in important life-building learning by giving them a chance to build their skills, gain confidence and have formative experiences in the workplace that we hope will make them excited for their future,” the mayor said in a press release. “While this year’s summer jobs program is different due to coronavirus, our dedication to providing these important opportunities is stronger than ever.”

In the past, summer jobs offered by the program have included mural painting and peer leadership. This year, they’ll take different forms.
“Boston’s Blue Shirt Program” will offer 530 opportunities to maintain the city’s parks. A “Peer to Peer COVID-19 Campaign” offers opportunities for 400 youth to assist in raising awareness of COVID-19 safety and Census outreach.

“Virtual Options” sets up 300 youth with remote opportunities and courses to improve their remote work skills. For those who want to take college courses, the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology (BFIT), Urban College of Boston and Roxbury Community College are offering courses, open to 450 teens. Classes will cover technology, the creative economy and human services. Participants in all programs will be provided with personal protective equipment (PPE).

In an interview with WBUR , Walsh said he was planning to provide both remote and in-person jobs for the city’s teenagers:  “We’re working on the summer job program right now. ... Many of our kids are working in hospitals. Some are working in private industry ... And then we have some working directly for the city.”

The city’s 2017 analysis of summer youth employment indicates that the programs improve teens’ social skills and work habits while preparing them for real-world jobs — and these effects are even greater for black and brown youth.

A key goal of the program is to provide income to those who need it most. The Brookings Institution ranked Boston in 2016 as having the highest level of income inequality among the 100 largest cities in the US. Close to half of the young people who participate in Boston’s summer youth employment programs contribute to their household bills. One in five are saving to pay for college tuition.

The mayor’s office is allocating $11.9 million in total to support the employment program.

This article was first published by WBUR 90.9FM on their website on June 7. The Reporter and WBUR share content through a media partnership.