Studies by Brookings and the Annie E Casey Foundation show the importance of youth employment. Having a job as a teenager (ages 16 to 18) predicts a higher likelihood of having a quality job (including higher wages) in adulthood. Missing out on an early work experience can have long-term negative effects on future employment and lifetime earnings. But not all youth have access to jobs in their teen and early adult years with low income youth of color least likely to secure any type of employment.

Before COVID, there were over 29,000 young people in the Portland-Vancouver Metro region who are not in school or working (called opportunity youth) – a statistic with dire economic and social consequences. This accounted for more than 11 percent of all youth in the region. The population of young people not in school nor working is becoming more diverse. In 2014, 30 percent of opportunity youth were people of color and that share rose to 42 percent in 2016. Unemployment rates for youth during COVID have spiked with young people, especially BIPOC youth, being among the hardest hit. Research has shown that pandemic unemployment rates for young people have been understated, as many have chosen to leave the labor force and have stopped looking for work.   

To learn more about SummerWorks, visit

Worksystems’ SummerWorks program provides paid work experiences for young people in our region, giving them the opportunity to learn valuable skills and explore career options. The program is also a key component to creating a pipeline of diverse homegrown talent that regional employers need to thrive and grow. 

Putting young people to work is more than a paycheck. There is no better place to learn the skills necessary to be successful at work than work itself. Youth who work are more likely to return to school, have a job in subsequent years, and earn more money over the course of their lives. They are also less likely to engage in crime and other high-risk behaviors. A JP Morgan Chase report shows that summer jobs help teens develop the basic building blocks they need in order to get their next job and launch their career. 

Outcomes our our SummerWorks program

Results from 10 years of the SummerWorks program:

  • 91% of participants were economically disadvantaged and 71% were kids of color
  • 7,070 total internships have been provided to area youth
  • 898,992 total hours worked
  • $10,148,810 in total wages earned

The demand for this program greatly outpaces the funding that we have. To sponsor a youth or for more information on this program, contact Barb Timper.

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