Youth Employment Initiatives: How Programs Are Preparing Youth for A Brighter Future

By Kaliah Little

Youth Employment is very important because it teaches students life skills. On the job, students are able to develop time management skills, help build a resume, and build financial independence. These skills are important because they fill a void left in our traditional public education system. Students will learn time management because they have to balance their schedules and get to work on time. Having the pressure of the job counting on the student will push them to do their best and make them more productive. Being employed as a young adult will drive students to start building a resume early on in their academic and professional career. Students will also learn financial independence. By having their own funds, students will learn how to save to get things they want.


Youth Employment helps the city by keeping students busy and less likely to get into trouble, whether it’s the school year or summer. According to the report, five of the city’s 77 community areas accounted for a third of Chicago homicides in 2016. Those same five community areas had jobless rates of 79 to 92 percent for teenagers, and 49 to 70 percent for young adults (Great Cities Institute/Chicago Tribune, 2017). By giving students productive and fun things to do during the summer, this could also help decrease the rate of violence in Chicago. Youth Employment can also stimulate economic growth in the city.


One way we are combating youth unemployment in Chicago is through the “One Summer Chicago” (OSC) initiative. This initiative, started by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, provides 31,000 youth with employment and enrichment opportunities during the summer months. One Summer Chicago offers summer employment to youth between the ages of 14 and 24, as well as a range of enrichment activities for children and youth of all ages, including camps, sports, arts, and recreation programs. Mayor Emanuel created OSC, because, “Keeping children busy and engaged helps them grow and develop as people, but it also keeps them safe so that they can enjoy their summer,” said Mayor Emanuel. “By collaborating with Cook County and other agencies, we are doing more than offering children the chance to develop strong, responsible work habits or earn money – we are giving kids a safe alternative to spending unsupervised time on the streets.”


One other initiative that helps youth secure employment opportunities is the “100k Opportunities” initiative. This event not only generates job opportunities for youth but also prepares the students for their interview. I had the opportunity to be a part of the 100k event for this summer. Students start 100k by going through mock interviews and receiving feedback on how they can improve their interview skills. The students then move onto the second step to have their resume reviewed and apply for jobs with partner companies at the event. After students have completed these steps, they may be offered an ON THE SPOT interview with the companies they applied for. Through this process, I was offered a job on the spot with Starbucks, and a second round interview for Potbelly’s. This event showed me that getting a job is not only about getting an interview, but also about being prepared to do whatever the interview calls for. Many students have not learned these skills yet. 100k works to fill that void to help the students be successful in building their professional careers.

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