"Last week, President Obama kicked off of Summer Jobs+, the administration’s partnership with the private sector with the goal of creating 250,000 employment opportunities by this summer for our nation’s youth.
I was there with fellow member of the White House Council for Community Solutions, musician Jon Bon Jovi, to do a tweet-up about the importance of connecting young people with mentorship, teaching soft and hard skills, and providing employment this summer and beyond.
A summer job means hope, future, respect, and better lives for the nearly 7 million young people who, right now in the United States, don’t attend school or have a job. Several of these young people were on hand at the event to share their stories, and what they said was exactly in line with what Jon Bon Jovi and I heard on our listening tour this past summer. Young people want jobs…they want opportunity. They are optimistic, they want to be seen as the hope for the future, not a burden to be dealt with. But they don’t often know how to find the programs and help they need, or they have a past that gets in the way of their future.
Think back on your own summer jobs when you were young – whether it was mowing lawns, caring for neighbor’s children, interning in local government, or flipping burgers – those jobs taught us discipline, work ethic, time management, budgeting – life skills that made us better employees and in some cases, eventually, employers.
But the recession has driven youth unemployment up to unprecedented levels. Only 25 percent of teens were employed this summer. Where are young people learning these important skills?
The answer is, they aren’t. And it’s a dangerous trend for the future prosperity of our country. A “disconnected” youth will make about $400,000 less than their working, educated peers over a lifetime, along with other implications.
There are things we can do to put all young people on the right track. It might be difficult to think about summer jobs in the middle of winter, but those of us who run our own companies should be thinking about it now and planning ahead. If all the small and medium businesses provided just one internship or opportunity to one disadvantaged youth this summer we could change millions of lives.
Why wait? Provide one or two opportunities this winter. Something to think about…
To learn more visit www.dol.gov/summerjobs."
Paul Monteiro is an Associate Director at the White House Office of Public Engagement.