Investing in Youth Employment Beyond Summer

This article was provided by Tyson Moore, President, Bank of America Nashville.

Summer internships have wrapped up and teens and young adults are settling into their school routines, or embarking on their first full-time job, making it the perfect time for employers to reflect on the importance of supporting youth employment programs beyond the summer months.

When young people are connected to employment and workforce experience, they learn about navigating the professional world and workplace dynamics, earn a paycheck and gain other valuable skills and perspectives.

In fact, studies show that students who enter the workforce early are more likely to secure better, higher paying jobs later in life, which often motivates improved financial literacy and interest in saving and investing, leading to wealth creation and greater economic mobility.

Right now, many young people looking for jobs lack the access and resources they need, and are at-risk of being left behind in a fast-changing job market if they don’t gain workforce experience, education and on-the-job training.

The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth says Tennessee’s youth unemployment increased significantly throughout the pandemic. In 2019 an estimated 14,794 youths, ages 16 to 19 were unemployed in Tennessee. The number of youths unemployed in 2020 was approximately 31,646.

Not only did younger workers experience relatively high peaks in unemployment over the course of the pandemic, especially young people from communities of color, but there are emerging demands for early exposure to jobs, specialized training and workforce skills.

There is no doubt that the private sector can contribute to these opportunities, as we are well positioned to help address youth unemployment both within our own companies as well as with other municipal and community programs. For example, Bank of America has connected 6,500 high school students to paid internships, paid training programs and employment opportunities this year alone – and 20,000 summer jobs for young people since 2010 nationwide.

Here in Nashville, Bank of America has connected many young adults to paid jobs and internships through a variety of community partnerships and workforce programs like the Metropolitan Action Commission’s Opportunity NOW youth employment initiative. We have invested nearly $200,000 in the last six years to support access to employment for young people ages 14-to-24 in Davidson County.

Since 2004, our Student Leaders program has provided 84 community-minded middle Tennessee high school students with paid internships working with local nonprofits like the Oasis Center, whose mission is to help young people move into a happy, healthy, and productive adulthood. Since becoming our full-time partner in 2008, Bank of America Nashville has granted close to $350,000 to the Oasis Center in support of youth employment through the Student Leaders program.

Recognizing the importance of a year-round approach to youth employment, the bank looks to fund paid opportunities beyond just the summer months.

By partnering with organizations year-round who are also addressing youth employment, as well as city summer jobs programs, companies can provide marketable professional opportunities while offering access to diverse workforce experiences beyond our own industries.

I encourage others to consider investing in a year-round youth employment strategy with a focus on functional skills, access to local professional opportunities, career growth and mentorship. By doing so, companies will not only improve the lives of young people, but also help grow the Nashville economy, build a diverse talent pool of future professionals, and strengthen the communities we call home.

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