Youth summer jobs program opens for applications

Previous WorkReady participant, Nina Z., says that work experiences have impacted the trajectory of her life.

Perhaps for obvious reasons, 2020 was a historically bad year for young people looking for summer jobs.

Even as coronavirus cases waned, and restrictions were eased, only about 57% of 16 to 24 year olds were employed or searching for a job, the lowest number since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began recording the measure in 1948.

In July, which is typically the high point for youth employment, 47% of people in that age group were working, compared to 56% in 2019. Youth unemployment doubled nationwide from the previous year, reaching 18.5%.

Fewer young people were employed in July than February, even though a large portion of the group was in school at the time, according to BLS data.

Some cities cancelled their summer job programs, but WorkReady, which is managed by the Philadelphia Youth Network, pushed on, providing 6,100 paid opportunities for residents ages 12 to 24.

This year, PYN wants to expand the program. It’s hoping to raise $2 million by May to create 8,000 slots for young people.

And, unlike in 2020, almost all the jobs will be in-person or have a mix of in-person and digital components.

“As we strive to support our nation’s economic recovery, it is crucial to continue to provide work experiences for Philadelphia’s young people, while keeping in mind that work expectations have drastically shifted over the past year,” PYN President and CEO Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend said in a statement.

In Summer 2020, WorkReady Program Partners like Girls Inc. quickly pivoted to offer opportunities for young people to still gain work experiences. This year, WorkReady program partners will offer safe in-person and hybrid opportunities for young people.PHOTO: PYN

Applications opened Monday for the jobs, which run from July to August. WorkReady partners with 80 employers offering more than 100 programs, and all are paid.

There’s a wide range of positions, at places such as the University of Pennsylvania, Mural Arts Philadelphia and Catholic Social Services.

A new online program locator allows participants to easily search for opportunities based on age, zip code and work experience. In addition, a customer service center has been established to answer questions.

Those with questions about WorkReady can call 267-502-3900 or email [email protected].

In the run-up to last year’s summer job initiative, organizers launched the Philly Summer Jobs Fund, which went on to raise $1.9 million. During a kick-off event earlier this month, the fund raised $700.

Most of the money goes toward helping partners pay operating and administrative costs, and some goes directly to paychecks.

WorkReady is aimed at helping young people build experience and develop skills, and, for a portion of those who register, it’s their starting point in the labor force.

About 21% of the participants in 2020 had never had a job, and about 65% were unemployed prior to the program, according to a PYN survey.

The city’s Office of Children and Families and Philadelphia Works are key funders of WorkReady and collaborate with PYN on the program.

Interested applicants can go to