June 23, 2015

Summer Youth Employment – Providing positive, safe, work experiences for young people

HUD Secretary Castro speaking to youth at an event in St. Louis

With the end of another school year, we know that many young people have begun searching for summer jobs.  Every business and organization can play an important role in creating pathways to meaningful employment for young people.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) encourages each of the nation’s 3,200 Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) to work with local service providers and businesses to offer opportunities to young people living in HUD-assisted households.  These efforts can change lives and enhance communities.

“The Summer Youth Program at the Columbia Housing Authority (CHA) is one of the best programs we do on an annual basis to break the cycle of poverty” says Nancy Nevill Stoudenmire, Director of HR/Planning/Special Projects for CHA.  “For many public housing youth, they lack the connections or the know-how of getting a job.  After eight weeks, it is amazing to see what an impact the program has had on the students.  I’m also very proud of how CHA staff work with them so they learn many professional and personal skills during their summer experience.”

We know that many PHAs, like CHA, offer summer employment opportunities for young adults and host annual summer job fairs in their communities.  But, imagine if every PHA committed to working with local partners to connect five young people to a job this summer.  That’s at least 16,000 summer jobs!  It’s a small financial investment for any business or agency, but one that will have a huge impact on the life of a young person.

HUD is committed to improving outcomes for young people living in public and assisted housing.  In 2012, HUD played a critical role in supporting President Obama’s Youth Jobs + campaign to help young people join the workforce, and obtain all the skills and experience that comes with a first job.

Building on this success, in April 2014, the Departments of HUD, Labor and Health and Human Services signed a Memorandum of Understanding to connect teenagers to all of the available resources within their community.   This partnership encourages PHAs and local youth service providers to co-enroll young people in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and applicable Workforce Investment Act programs, so they can benefit from occupational skills training and other relevant services.  Additionally, local governments and states may use their funding from HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program for job training and mentoring programs.

In addition to connecting young people to positive work experiences this summer, there are multiple approaches that a PHA can take to help prepare them to compete in the local workforce. Most of these approaches are revenue-neutral and can be done in partnership with local service providers, so we strongly encourage PHAs to consider them this summer or year-round:

  1. Life Skills:  Provide youth with work-related soft skills, such as communications, time management, and teamwork, through coursework and/or work experience.  For example, PHAs could offer résumé writing, interview workshops, workplace etiquette and networking workshops, or provide employee mentors. Second Saturdays is a way to professionally mentor teenagers once a month about different topics, providing them with foundational skills for the professional world.
  1. Work Skills:  Give young public housing residents insight into the world of work by hosting Job Shadow Days. PHA staff and PHA partners can volunteer to be shadowed for a day.  This would not involve them changing any aspect of their schedules, only agreeing to have an extra seat at the table throughout the day.
  1. Earn and Learn:  Allow teenagers to attain on-the-job skills while earning wages for their work.  The PHA, a partnering business, or a local service provider can offer paid internships or offer permanent positions that provide training.  Businesses can also partner with educational institutions to give young people the opportunity to strengthen their academic skills while they work.

The summer youth employment effort is just one of many important initiatives occurring within HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing.  For more information about this and other related programs, please contact Ronald Ashford, at Ronald.T.Ashford@hud.gov or 202-402-4258.


Lourdes Castro Ramírez is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Public and Indian Housing.

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