In 2016, the Washtenaw County Summer Youth Employment Program launched as a partnership between MichiganWorks! Southeast and the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development. In 2017, the University of Michigan joined the partnership to provide employment opportunities across campus and pair local youth with faculty and staff to help them gain work experience, mentorship, and professional development training.
Since U-M partnered with the program, over 150 youth have been placed in a variety of jobs across the scope of the U-M enterprise. Our partnership continues to expand to include Michigan Rehabilitation Services, Ann Arbor SPARK, the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, the A2Y Regional Chamber of Commerce, and more. As the program continues to grow, we are excited to offer mentorship and employment opportunities again this summer.
Why Summer Youth Employment?
For young people today, the job market is more competitive and challenging now than in previous generations. Employers have high expectations and an increasing demand for more education and skills. As a result, young people — especially those lacking access to quality education, reliable job training, and professional development opportunities — can find it difficult to navigate the workforce, post-secondary education, and the transition into adulthood.
On the surface, Washtenaw County appears to be one of the wealthiest and most educated counties in the state. However, due to a long history of disinvestment and systemic racism in housing, employment, and education policies, disparities in education and economic outcomes persist for youth throughout our local community. Problem-solving, communication, leadership, and other “soft” skills are required for success in the workforce; however, these skills are not built into our formal education system. Opportunities to develop them as well as identify professional networks are not easily accessible—young people often encounter structural barriers when entering the workforce or pursuing higher education because job access and training resources are not equally distributed across communities. SummerWorks promotes equity in our community by creating opportunities for youth to explore careers and educational paths, build professionalism skills, and engage in mentorship that prepares them for future success in higher education, the workforce, and beyond.
About the Research
SummerWorks is both an opportunity to provide jobs and identify best practices for programs of this kind. U-M aims to build a rigorous evaluation structure grounded in principles of Positive Youth Development to research the effectiveness of different strategies. This program is one of the first of its kind to be conducted by a major university; it is unique because it will not only measure the program’s impact but also use research to determine best practices for engaging and mentoring youth.
>>See the SummerWorks Mentoring Guide published in November 2020 (PDF)
>> Read more about our youth employment research