We need more companies engaging in Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program

Too many young people can’t find summer jobs, and, as a result, they’re missing out on critical opportunities to be personally and professionally successful in the future.

Consider:

There has been a nearly 40-percent decline in summer youth employment over the past 12 years.

Only 26 percent of teenagers held any paid jobs in 2011 and 2012.

Young people from low-income and minority families have been hit hardest by this crisis. Teens from families that earned less than $20,000 were nearly 20 percent less likely to be employed than teens with family incomes of $60,000 or more.

Simply put, our young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are facing an employment crisis that is likely to have a profound effect on their adult years. Despite the recent gains for older workers, young jobs seekers are still struggling.

There is no simple fix for this challenge. But we can start by focusing on what works.

One local effort that is working is the Dallas Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program, an innovative initiative for Dallas public high school students, most of whom will be first in their families to attend college. These rising juniors and seniors undergo extensive training and put their skills to test at a real life Job Fair.

After landing a coveted internship, the interns spend eight weeks earning at least $9 an hour. They experience experiencing everything from the boardrooms of major corporations to surgeries in major hospitals. They shadow architects and engineers and learning the ropes at top nonprofits. They come away with more confidence, with hope, and most importantly, a peek at the promising future that lies ahead once they commit to and complete their college education.

JPMorgan Chase has donated more than $500,000 — including a $175,000 grant for next year — to support the mayor’s initiative. We also have employed some of the mayor’s interns at our company, and we could not be more pleased in their work ethics or in the enthusiasm they bring to the office every morning.

Nationally, JPMorgan Chase has worked with local governments and nonprofit partners to support programs in 14 cities across the country to create jobs for 50,000 teens and learning opportunities for another 50,000. We are utterly convinced these programs open doors of opportunity. And while we’re proud of that achievement, we absolutely need more private- sector engagement.

Companies of all sizes need to recognize that preparing the next generation of employees is both the right thing and smart thing to do. We can and should play a role in providing funding and hands-on support for summer youth employment programs.

I know that business leaders often ask Mayor Mike Rawlings what they can do to help education in Dallas. His answer is to hire or sponsor an intern — or several — as part of the Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program.

Although summer is months away, now is the time to reserve a spot for these talented teens at your workplace. Please consider signing up at mayorsinterns.org.

Strategic and well-resourced partnerships can turn the summer months into a period of growth and opportunity. We owe it to our young people — and our city — to make sure more summer youth-employment programs are available. It’s time for government, business and nonprofits to work together and turn summer from a developmental dead zone to a time when our young people are put on a springboard to successful lives.

 

Elaine Agather is chairman of JPMorgan Chase in Dallas. Reach her at JP_Morgan_Private_Bank@jpmorgan.com



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