Brighter Prospects for Chicago’s Youth: Strengthening Summer Jobs and Beyond


CHARLIE EVANS: I'm Charlie Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today's Project Hometown event, Brighter Prospects for Chicago's Youth, Strengthening Summer Jobs and Beyond. Today, we are joined by an expert panel that will discuss the important role summer youth employment programs can play in the coming months for Chicago's youth.

Since the pandemic closed schools last year, youth across the country have made enormous sacrifices to help contain the spread of the virus and protect the adults in their lives. And among the most vulnerable, far too many have experienced the trauma that comes from isolation, food insecurity, housing instability, and uncertain job prospects. Left unaddressed, these disruptions could leave long-lasting scars and make it even more difficult for youth to achieve their potential.

Today's event is part of our Project Hometown initiative. Since last July, we have been hosting a series of conversations with local leaders across the Chicago Fed's five-state region. We have been listening to experts and exploring opportunities to contribute our analytical expertise to support our communities as they find solutions to the pandemic's challenges.

Research indicates that summer jobs programs have an important effect, reducing violent crime arrests by 43% and lowering incarceration rates by up to 50%. They can improve economic outcomes for youth by providing opportunities to develop soft skills and access mentors. As we may hear about today, they may do more.

Going forward, it will be important to strengthen the resiliency of our workforce to economic shocks, especially among those least able to weather these challenges. And we view summer jobs programs as an important and worthwhile step toward greater economic resiliency. The Chicago Fed is committed to improving economic opportunities for youth and supporting programs that contribute to the inclusive nature of the Federal Reserve's maximum employment mandate.

We hope you and other residents of Chicago will join us in strengthening the value of summer jobs programs for youth. Connecting with the city of Chicago's One Summer Chicago and My Chi, My Future programs is one way to support Chicago's youth. And if your company or organization is looking for a way to participate in summer jobs programs, Thrive Chicago is available to help you discover and connect with other community-based organizations throughout the city. I will now turn the event over to Mike Berry, today's moderator, who will introduce the panelists. Thanks very much.

MIKE BERRY: Thanks, Charlie. Let me extend a warm welcome to both our panelists and our guests watching the event today. My name is Mike Berry, and I'm a policy advisor in the Chicago Fed's community development and policy studies area, or CDPS, as we refer to it. Just briefly, I am obligated to mention that any opinions I express are mine alone and don't necessarily reflect the official positions of the Federal Reserve System or the Chicago Fed.

As Charlie mentioned, we do, indeed, have a distinguished panel for this afternoon's event. And before I introduce them, I'd like to just share a few thoughts on our topic and also the structure of our panel. While the Fed has access to significant data resources, data don't tell us everything. And we maintain contacts across a wide spectrum of people in various industries, including many that serve our district's most vulnerable populations. Since the onset of the pandemic, likely no surprise, we've been in more frequent contact as we look to better understand on-the-ground conditions. We're not, of course, public health experts, but we did and we still do want to know which areas in the economy, which places, which populations have been able to manage and which ones are struggling.

As Charlie mentioned, school-age youth and their working parents, especially those in under-served and under-resourced communities, have paid a steep cost to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. We see renewed focus on summer employment as one ingredient to help get our youth back on track.

The Fed isn't entirely new to the subject of summer youth employment as a research topic, anyway. We've looked at it, as we have many facets of our nation's labor force. What's different about this moment is that our interest relates to our current context and our hope to foster a more inclusive recovery coming out of the pandemic. We will also be, going forward, more operationally focused on summer employment for opportunity youth in our outreach efforts, and we look to build our contact network and presence in summer youth employment as part of our community development efforts, but also our overall work plan.

Summer job programs have reduced violent crime significantly in Chicago, as Charlie pointed out, other cities as well. And while younger workers do gain soft skills and work experience if they participate, the longer-term outcomes for economic mobility are not yet as promising. We want to explore that a little bit further today.

I'd also like to call your attention to our summer jobs resource page at And I'll be circulating more information about that. But there are research and other information resources on the site. In particular, though, I'd like to highlight the connection to Thrive Chicago, which is a good place to start if you're an employer considering a summer job program or would like more information about how to get started.

Today's event has been in planning for months. And after much consideration, our planning a team of Jane Dokko, Jerry Boyle, Jung Sakong, and Dustchin Rock and me agreed that the perspectives on our panel today would be the best combination to explore the topic in a relatively small amount of time. We have a little over an hour. These include the human service perspective from an organization that connects youth and employers and also provides support services, the employer perspective from a firm that has a standing program, the city perspective, which has to manage a complex array of policy objectives with limited budget, of course, and, of course, the research perspective to measure outcomes.

So I'd like to introduce our panel quickly and before we move on to opening statements. Iona Calhoun-Battiste is a director of opportunity youth and employment strategies at Thrive Chicago. This area of Thrive works to minimize the number of Chicago youth not employed or in school, and Iona brings more than 20 years of experience in community development, strategic planning, youth programming, and so on to this very important mission, having held key related positions at United Way, Chicago Public Schools, Metro Family Services, and Ada S. McKinley Community Services.

Michael Chiappetta is the director of Chicago market development for Accenture. Michael is responsible for expanding his organization's presence in Chicago metro with respect to business development and also civic and community engagement. He is also responsible for establishing Accenture's apprentice program, which connects students and other youth with careers at Accenture. The 2016 pilot that initially involved five students has grown to 160 in Chicago and more than 1,000 apprentice hires in 35 North American markets. I won't steal any more thunder, but I think you'll agree this is a success, especially after you hear more details.

Sara Heller is an assistant professor of economics at the University of Michigan whose work focuses on the effects of both behavioral-based counseling interventions and summer jobs initiatives to reduce crime and improve life outcomes for disadvantaged youth. It's hard to overstate the importance of measuring tangible outcomes to ambitious policy interventions. I think I'm correct that Sara's work was the first to reveal the very positive outcomes associated with One Summer Chicago on crime using a randomized controlled experiment.

Finally, Sybil Madison is deputy mayor of Chicago for Education, a clinical and community psychologist, former teacher and professor who has focused her career on new approaches to urban education aimed at both students and educators in achieving more equitable educational outcomes. Sybil is the first person to hold her job. And I think it's safe to say the creation of position as well as the credentials that Sybil brings to it demonstrate that education is a very high priority for the current city administration.

So with that, I would like to turn the microphone over to our panelists for an opening statement with some perspective. And we hadn't picked anybody, but does somebody want to volunteer to go first? Iona, I'm going to pick you.

IONA CALHOUN-BATTISTE: OK, that's fine. I figured it might be me. Thanks, Mike. Hi, everyone, so happy to be here. And I want to thank the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank for asking me to be a panelist today on this topic that is very near and dear to my heart.

So as Mike said, I am the director of opportunity youth and employment strategies that Thrive Chicago. Thrive Chicago, we are a non-profit organization that is steeped in engaging in collective impact with our community non-profits to drive innovative ideas and strategies that help our children in Chicago thrive and succeed. We focus on very particular areas of work. We have a K-12 portfolio of work. We have a data partnership.

Our data partnerships-- I'm sure many of a lot about them-- have been quite talked about and really ingrained in a lot of the work that we do. We also have an MBK portfolio that focuses on bettering outcomes for boys and men of color. And then we have the opportunity youth portfolio, which I manage, which is focusing on improving the life outcomes for youth who are 16 to 24 who are out of work and out of school.

And so this is what really drives a lot of my efforts, trying to get these young adults into not only just jobs, but really giving them the options to be exposed to careers, the option to choose. Choice is something that a lot of our disadvantaged youth do not have. So if I can do something to streamline a pipeline to better position organizations so that our opportunity youth can be helped to have more options and choice into their careers and what they would like to do, then that is all worthwhile for me.

So at Thrive Chicago, we work with in between a lot of our system players who are on this panel. We've done lots of work with the city, GFSS, and the Chicago Workforce Partnership. And so we're really happy to be focusing our current efforts on really trying to dig deep in understanding where some of the barriers are, bringing together some corporate partners who are really vested in our youth and young adults so that opportunities exist for young people, not just in the summer, but summer and beyond, and how do we bring together and convene all those system players and community-based organizations so we're working easier, not harder, and more effortlessly, and maybe it's making it more streamlined for our young adults.

So that's kind of the current work that we're doing at Thrive. And again, always keeping that enriched in data. And yeah, I think that's been my seven minutes, Mike.

MIKE BERRY: Very good. Thank you very much, Iona. So since you mentioned the data and that's an important part of it, I thought perhaps we could move to Sara and then Sybil and then Michael, if that's OK with you guys. OK.

SARA HELLER: Sounds great. Thanks so much. And welcome, everybody. So as you've heard, I'm a researcher, and so I'm going to talk a little bit about what the research evidence says about summer youth employment programs, what they do and don't accomplish and for whom to sort of kick off the conversation.

So the reason I can talk about this with some confidence is that the last five to eight years have generated a lot of rigorous evidence about the effects of summer jobs programs. The data come from randomized control trials that really credibly estimate the effects of the program itself separately from any pre-existing differences between the kinds of young people who choose to participate and those who don't. And as many of you know, Chicago has really been a leader in producing this evidence, but there are now also studies of similar programs in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia that help fill out the broader picture and gives a little bit more confidence about what the evidence is telling us.

So across these cities, I think policymakers have a range of goals they try to accomplish with summer jobs programs, and I think about them sort of in three buckets-- providing income, improving employment, and preventing other socially costly outcomes. So let me take those three in turn.

First, policymakers might want to provide an income transfer. Young people earn money from their jobs, which they may or may not be able to find in the private labor market. And with this goal, they're clearly effective. Participants typically earn between $700 and $900 more than they would otherwise in a year of the program, which is a lot of money, especially in neighborhoods where median income is around $36,000. Surveys suggest participants spend almost 80% of their wages either helping their families, or at local businesses. And so most of those wages get reinvested in the community.

Second, policymakers might want to improve future employment, use these sort of as training programs. So perhaps surprisingly, at least surprisingly to me when I started studying this, is these programs don't actually do that, at least on average. So studies have looked both two and four years out after the program summer, and neither employment nor earnings go up. And this isn't because participants are more likely to delay work and go to college. There's no change in college-going either.

Now, I want to emphasize, this is on average. There do seem to be some subgroups for whom the program increases employment. They tend to be participants who are younger, more female, more Hispanic, and less disconnected, so more attached to school, less involved in the criminal justice system, not those opportunity youth that you just sort of heard about. But on average, despite the fact that we often sort of see these as employment programs, they're not actually encouraging success in the labor market.

But third, these kinds of programs may generate changes in skills, beliefs, or time use that matter for outcomes other than employment. And here, the results are strikingly consistent across every place they've been studied. Summer jobs reduce criminal justice involvement. Now, the exact changes vary a little bit place to place.

So two different Chicago studies found that arrests for violent crime decreased by 30% to 40%, not just during the summer, but even in the year after the program was over. In other studies, it's been a mix of violent and property crime, in some places drug and other types of crime. Where it's been measured, it has translated into a clear decline in incarceration. And in New York, the program is big enough that they could even document a decline in mortality. That seems to be driven by a decline in homicide, albeit from a very low baseline.

So to be honest with you, when programs are studied in different contexts, they almost never show this kind of consistent effect, but the evidence is really there now. So despite differences and in program models and youth populations and local contexts, summer jobs programs reduce contact with the criminal justice system everywhere they've been tested. And their biggest effects are for those at the highest risk of experiencing these socially costly outcomes. So for policymakers looking for investments that prevent crime but don't involve law enforcement, these programs should be really, really attractive.

Now, to be clear, I don't think summer jobs programs are the solution to gun violence. The people who are really deeply involved in shootings are not generally the same people who apply to a summer jobs program, and that group likely needs much more intensive services than a 6-to-8-week summer intervention is going to be able to provide. So we should be careful not to have sort of unreasonable expectations about the scope of the changes.

But any kind of violence is incredibly traumatic and socially costly for individuals, their families, and communities, as is incarceration. And in fact, there are some hints from a recent Philadelphia study that these programs may even reduce other correlates of crime and violence, like the need for Child Protective Services and mental health problems. So if that bears out elsewhere, that could make the programs even more cost effective.

So that's what the evidence says so far. Now, it's true that all of this evidence was pre-pandemic. Programs obviously had to make major adaptations in what they were doing in a way that might change their effects. But there is a reason to think that providing supervised time informed by current public health recommendations is likely to be more constructive and safer than what young people would otherwise fill their time with, even this summer. And so this wasn't a big benefit that we would have thought about before, but we might not really care about providing a safe way for youth to start interacting with each other and build some social connections that have really been absent in this difficult pandemic year. So it still seems like a smart investment even with the added uncertainty of the pandemic.

So the last point I want to make, which I think is relevant to thinking about where we go from here, is that I don't think we should take this evidence and say let's give summer jobs to everyone, everywhere, all the time, right? If we're serving youth who are basically at zero risk of crime or violence, you're not going to generate a decrease in those outcomes because you can't drop below zero.

And so I think it's worth making thoughtful choices about scale and about targeting to make sure we're not growing these programs so large or broad that they're serving youth who are unlikely to benefit. So if we want to increase employment, we should think about serving the youth who look like they improve unemployment, which are younger, more female, more connected to school, and less involved in the criminal justice system.

If we really want to target the crime and violence outcomes, we should think about that population that tends to be older, more male, more of a history of criminal justice involvement. This isn't a population that's easy to serve. They need extra support to convince them to apply, to help them over the higher barriers they face. That takes resources. But it also generates larger Benefits, And so it's likely worth investing in.

So I think my time is up. Let me just close by saying, these programs might not do exactly what we thought they would ex ante, but they really are one of the few interventions where the evidence is basically unanimous on their positive effects. And so at a time like this, as we're heading into a summer that looks like it's going to continue this tragic recent increase in violence we've seen and with frustratingly little evidence about effective ways to stop it, summer jobs programs really are a tool in our toolbox that consistently works. And so we just have to commit to using it. Thanks.

MIKE BERRY: Thank you, Sarah. Sybil?

SYBIL MADISON: Thank you, Mike. First, let me just say, I'm so excited to be here on this panel, and I'm just looking forward to the conversation. And I'm also happy to bring greetings from Mayor Lori Lightfoot. I grew up in a big blue family. My parents were IBM-ers, and I was fortunate enough to work for IBM every summer that I was in college because it was a requirement of the IBM Watson scholarship that I had earned.

So every summer, I worked at a sales branch in Dallas supporting a team of marketing reps and systems engineers. I was a psychology student at the time with a father who was hoping that I'd changed my mind and study business. And the summer program was definitely IBM's way to develop an internal pipeline to employment for the kids of its employees. If I had wanted to get a job at IBM when I graduated, I would have been well positioned to compete for one.

But more importantly, the experiences that I had each summer taught me so many things that I carried forward into graduate school and to the jobs that I had long after those college years. I learned about the importance of showing up and being prepared. I observed people doing their work and saw firsthand many job functions which enabled me to imagine myself in those roles. I learned important skills, like how to put together a presentation, do client-centered research, and really listen to understand what people needed and were asking for.

And most importantly, I had a chance to understand what I was interested in, could be good at, and what I was not interested in and was not good at and what I didn't enjoy doing. I didn't change my major to business, nor did I pursue an MBA, much to my father's chagrin. But these kinds of experiences are invaluable for adolescents and young adults who are trying to figure out and chart their path forward at that stage of life.

One of the main developmental tasks of adolescence and young adulthood is to understand who one is and what one could be. And the psychologist Erik Erikson called it identity versus confusion a long time ago. But the ideal outcome, in Erikson's words, is fidelity, having an integrated image of oneself as a unique person with specific contributions to make in a place in the world.

We all know that that personal journey toward fidelity often extends well beyond adolescence. But these work-based opportunities, high-quality ones, provide the opportunity to explore possibilities, to observe and try on different roles and identities, and they're critical for our young people. Furthermore, they give youth an opportunity to be mentored by caring adults who can become part of their teams and support them long after the work experience is over.

For youth whose parents and family members did not go to college or whose parent and family members are not in jobs with upward mobility, these relationships can be even more instrumentally helpful and supportive. For youth and families and communities that are under-resourced, these job experiences also provide material support and relief, as Sarah mentioned.

During the pandemic, when all learning was remote, high school attendance here in Chicago at CPS was down on average by 4.3%. For Black students, attendance was down 25%, for Latinx students, 18.5%. Many educators and leaders reported anecdotally that this was in part due to students working, which was assumed to be related to economic hardships exasperated by the pandemic. We can guess that these jobs might have helped students put food on the table but most likely were not the kinds of meaningful work-based experiences that we know can propel young people forward on their paths to passion-centered careers.

On April 19, our high school students had the opportunity to return to school for in-person instruction after 13 months of being physically out of school. Many people have read about the impact of remote learning on students, and it's been mentioned, and particularly on adolescence-- the negative effects of social isolation and the disruption of not only traditional rituals like homecoming and prom, but also of transitional rituals, like acclimating to your freshman year in high school. In fact, our freshman on-track rate, an indicator of high school graduation, went down this year from 87% to 81%. And we're working hard to support the transition rituals related to college going, including completing the FAFSA and applying to college, knowing that last fall, our two and four-year colleges and institutions saw significant decreases in their freshman classes.

These interrupted transitions from high school to college or work have led many, as Iona will tell you, to predict that the number of opportunity youth, young people who are neither in school or working, will grow by 107%. CPS and City Colleges here in Chicago are working hard this summer to limit what we call summer melt by increasing their supports for students transitioning to college through their Summer Start program and by deploying post-secondary navigators to high schools across the city. Connecting young people to job opportunities this summer is another strategy designed to keep youth engaged and reconnect youth to their passions and possibilities, as well as provide the material support that Sara talked about.

Early in the mayor's administration, we developed, with a host of community-based organizations, youth development professionals, and our city departments and agencies-- a collective vision for youth in the city. It reads, every young person in Chicago connects to a variety of rich, engaging, safe, and youth-centered out-of-school experiences that empower them to discover and cultivate their talents, passions, skills, and identities, develop as physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy members of society, build relationships and networks with peers and mentors, and explore multiple pathways to college, careers, trades, entrepreneurship, and lifelong learning. Our job, as a city, is to make sure that every young person has the opportunity to have powerful out-of-school and work-based learning experiences during high school and young adulthood. And we know that our city, across public and private sectors, can do this for each and every one of our youth.

We are proud to be offering, through One Summer Chicago, as was mentioned, over 26,000 summer jobs to youth this year. However, each year, thousands of young people are denied that opportunity because we don't have enough jobs for everyone who wants to work. At the beginning of her administration, Mayor Lightfoot had a goal that we'd get to 100% of all high school students enrolled in our career and technical education programs, receiving some form of exposure by graduation, and 50% of these students being matched with a career development experience, like an internship or apprenticeship by 2023.

Career Launch Chicago, a critical part of the collaborative work being done by CPS and City Colleges, will place 50 students in pre-apprenticeships this summer with the goal of expanding to 1,000 students by 2024. And I want to thank partners like Accenture for their collaboration with both CPS and City Colleges, especially, and playing a significant role in the development of our brilliant and talented young people. Public-private partnerships are the only way that we will ever ensure that every young person, regardless of their ZIP code, high school, or the job that their parents have has opportunities to discover who they are and what they want to pursue by engaging in meaningful work as teens and young adults.

I will close by saying our call to action would be to partner more intentionally to create guaranteed pathways into viable, career-related jobs, so to work on that outcome that Sara talked about that we're not hitting, in terms of longer-term employment, but also to partner on creating more opportunities for young people. Every summer, we have a gap of about 10,000 to 15,000 young people who will apply for a summer job and will not get one. And I agree with Sara, together, we can partner to make sure that we target the growth of those opportunities and also be really intentional about whom we connect to those opportunities. So I just want to thank everybody for their time, and I look forward to the ongoing conversation today.

MIKE BERRY: Thank you very much, Sybil. And just a quick word before we transition to Michael, which is that one of the things that we hope to bring to this work is to attract more private-sector employers to be thinking about this. And so with that, I want to hand it to Michael.

MICHAEL CHIAPPETTA: Well, thank you, Mike, but no thanks to putting me fourth on the list here. The three panelists before set a very high bar. I will do my best to keep up with it. Wonderful opening statements, I was hanging on every word, and I wrote down a bunch of notes to follow up afterwards with each of you.

So Mike Chiappetta for Accenture, it's a pleasure to be on the call today. I think the topic of summer employment and engaging our youth across the city is a very viable one. I hope that it expands outside of just the summer internship side of things. And Mike teed it up of the apprentice program that we launched in Chicago spread across North America, and a whole bunch of employers are following us.

I'll touch quickly on what we've done with one, or we are planning to do with One Summer Chicago and City Colleges this summer. And then hopes to scale that, but more-- I could also touch on the way that we're impacting folks going through City Colleges and other tech focused non-profits around the city.

So the one summer Chicago program, the way we got engaged, we've always tried to find a way to be thoughtful in our engagement with Chicago Public Schools. There's a lot to try to tackle at Chicago Public Schools. There is a large number of students and many schools, and how to be thoughtful in the way that we impacted. And it kind of fell into our laps when COVID started. Accenture has a partnership with Cristo Rey networks across the United States.

And instead of canceling summer internships in 2020, we decided-- and we brought in 800 Cristo Rey students for summer internships traditionally. Instead of canceling Christmas or canceling internships and saying, sorry, doors are closed, our offices are closed, we quickly whipped up some curriculum that touched on a lot of in-demand topics that at 44, I'm engaged by the topics, let alone somebody who's 16, 17, or 18 to get introduced to things like emerging technology, digital interactive storytelling, finance, marketing, et cetera.

So we developed that curriculum and engaged 800 students across 12 cities. And with the success of that curriculum, we said, how can we take that to Chicago? And the thought was reaching out to Lisa Davis at One Summer Chicago, and offer the idea of can we take a group of folks from-- and develop a teaching engine to take this curriculum and engage as many students as we have capacity for. So in order to boost the capacity, I had to call on a good friend, Chancellor Juan Salgado at City Colleges. And he donated five professors for the summer.

He said yes in like, five minutes. I was ready for a hard sales pitch to him. But we've done a lot of really great work together. And he loved the idea of partnering employers and educators together to teach in-demand curriculum to our rising juniors and seniors going through the One Summer Chicago program. I also enlisted a couple of friends around the city and employers with SDI presence and Catalyte, Joining Accenture, and others to then have one employer and one educator partnered up to group to teach a cohort of 20 students one day a week for four hours. And we have the curriculum spread out over the whole course of the six week curriculum for One Summer Chicago.

And I think I look back to my academic career, and I feel like I got the most value out of the teachers that had one foot in academics and one foot in the real world, or guest speakers were brought in to say you're deep into this web development class. Here's how you could take that and solve a real world problem.

And that's when things really clicked. And I think there's going to be a lot of excitement in partnering the educators and employers together to engage. We're going to start with 300 students this summer.

And if we have success, or when we have success with it, we look to expand even further in 2022. Maybe we triple the number of employers, and work to try to get some more educators involved, and try to head 1,000 students in a four-hour per week program over the six weeks. I think it's important, I mean, for all the reasons that everybody mentioned-- engagement in these types of activities is important. But thinking even a little bit more expanded from that, I'll touch quickly on The Apprentice program and the networks we built.

But The Apprentice Program effectively creates a bridge from folks in community colleges and non-profits to not only internships but careers at companies like Accenture, Aon, Zurich Insurance, JPMorgan, Catalyte, SDI, Rush University Medical Center, and 54 total companies that have launched The Apprentice program since 2017 in the Chicagoland area. And we announced two Fridays ago that we hit our goal of creating 1,000 professional apprenticeships in the Chicagoland area.

And we didn't stop there. In partnering with Aon and others, we're taking our show on the road. We launched the similar apprentice network in the greater Washington DC area last week, on Monday, as well as northern California last Thursday. And then there's five other markets that we're looking to stand something up. Where it's basically getting employers to open their doors wider from a recruiting point of view by more thoughtfully looking at their roles and responsibilities from an entry-level point of view. And we have a whole list of reasons why this is A. a viable talent strategy, and B. it balances social inequities by giving everybody an opportunity to effectively get that middle skill job that's eroding across the US, and even more so in Chicago than in the US. And then give somebody a real solid foundation to stand on to get at least one or two years of work experience, then to continue their education wisely and smartly based on some real world experience.

And the thing I think that's exciting is with The Apprentice network expanding across the US, we're connecting with big organizations that have set very lofty goals, like 110 and the New York CEO Jobs Council, where our network is effectively the engine that can connect to very lofty goals to connect to more people in more communities. And real quick, the last piece I'll mention. In balancing social inequities, our Apprentice network has hit 48 zip codes in Chicago with representation from folks.

And when I take a look at the subset of the 125 apprentices we brought on at Accenture in Chicago today, 40% of them live on the South and West sides of the city. And then, the last piece is we took this Apprentice program across the country in Accenture as well, now in 35 markets across North America. And we just had 1,000 apprentices there. So it's turning into business as usual.

And I think the summer internship is a very strong component for this. But I think employers can look to open their recruiting doors wider, meet community colleges where they're at and nonprofits where they're at, and give more opportunities to more people in every zip code. Over to you you, Mike.

MIKE BERRY: Terrific, Michael, thank you. So-- well, as we spoke, Michael, last week, you also mentioned some of the retention rates of your program, which were also quite impressive. That the people who have ascended through the organization, and that's a pretty promising aspect as well.

MICHAEL CHIAPPETTA: Yeah, I mean, nationally in our program it's 89% conversion rate over the one year program. Which effectively, I think the reason for that is if you take a look at your responsibilities tied to your entry level role, which you traditionally recruit from top universities, top GPAs. It's being smarter about that, and looking at those responsibilities and figuring out which ones are my top highly skilled university candidates overqualified for? Trimming those responsibilities off over the aggregate of your recruiting supply, and that's effectively your apprenticeship. Where you split your entry level role into two roles. And then it does two things.

A lot of companies spend a lot of time recruiting from all of the top universities and putting those folks at the bottom of their organization. And then, the bottom of the organization is where you have to just get stuff done. And I think that by taking, by elevating the responsibilities tied to those highly skilled candidates, you're going to engage them more. They're not going to leave because they're bored. And then I think that you give an opportunity to somebody that would love to do cleaning up converted data, basic break fix, testing, whatever it is from a technology point of view. And then, it gives them a lot of really good experience that they can then build on.

So it's opening the recruiting doors wider, and it's a smart talent strategy for that reason. And then, you start to layer in all the benefits of not everybody can get $100 to $200,000 of financial education, but they could get $4,500 a year at City Colleges. Or if President Biden gets his way, free, right? Or get a B average in CPS, and you get the Star scholarship. So I think it's just it's opening recruiting doors wider. It's a viable talent strategy that works. And I think it's something that we've been doing it for four years, we've created so many of these with so many companies. But we're still just scratching the surface.

MIKE BERRY: Excellent. Thank you. Thank you. So I want to switch gears just a little bit here. So just fundamentally, I mean, we've talked a bit about this. But having an organized process for getting youth employed seems like the-- on its face seems like a great idea. But as some of you have alluded, there's certain cohorts that are more successful and that experience the longer term good outcomes. I guess one question is how do we try to reach into the population a little bit further for the more vulnerable or at risk youth is one aspect. And maybe-- Iona, maybe we start with you again on this.

But what's going on this summer, I guess is my question as well. We're at a very much an inflection point as the economy starts to reopen and so forth. And so what kinds of steps can we take this summer in order to help improve outcomes, or at least mitigate some of the effects of the pandemic?

IONA CALHOUN-BATTISTE: Yeah, thanks, Mike. Well, you know-- I don't-- so much in that-- such a loaded question. I'm not sure where to start. But I mean, at Thrive we are looking at-- let's just start with a little data that we do know of. From spring 2019 to spring 2020 unemployment among young adults spiked from 8-- around 8% to 24%. The pandemic has exasperated all of these problems, and a number of OI like, as you stated earlier, somebody stated earlier, we're anticipating over 100,000 OI.

So a lot of the initial work that was done to help these young adults who have less options-- a lot of that work has-- the pandemic has just kind of put it away. Why an organized process works. Let me start there. For young adults that have a lot of different challenges and barriers, an organized process allows them to one, easily access lots of different employers. Two, have a lot of different options available to them immediately. Three, career exposure. All of these things-- and career matching. All of those things are taken care of by DFSS in One Summer Chicago. They do that for that young person.

So a young adult doesn't necessarily-- like, back in the day, what did we have to do? We ran around from Express to The Gap to the this the there trying to find a summer job or do something. It was filling out applications. This is just like how the college recruiting created the FAFSA and the financial aid. It's very easy. It's one stop. So what the magic of DFSS and One Summer Chicago is that they have created a one-stop application process that alleviates a lot of different barriers and a lot of different challenges that some of these young people face. Which is why they can anticipate having 26,000 jobs to offer. So that's the first thing.

The second thing is we understand that summer provides this inroad. As everybody else on the panel has discussed, summer provides this first step, this first taste, this first place in which a young person can get an understanding of what this job may be. Is this the right job for them? Is this a place where they want to be? Do they like this? It's a place in which a lot of us get job descriptions. But how many of us understand that a job description is different than the day-to-day. So when we go with our job interviews we ask about the day-to-day because the job descriptions typically don't necessarily talk a lot about that.

So just how Michael stated earlier, having that experienced worker paired with a professor or a teacher to understand the real world application of things. So One Summer Chicago allows that young person to, what I call, fail forward. It's a safe space. If it doesn't work out, guess what, I'll apply to so-and-so and I'll do something else next year. Maybe I want to work with animals next year. It allows them this opportunity that really has been primarily reserved for more advantaged youth. They have the ability to come in and out, go here and there.

This One Summer Chicago application and process provides this space in which youth can-- youth from all walks of life can really have these options and we've talked about earlier. I could go on. So I'll stop. Mike, just give me-- because I could keep going on, but I'll stop.

MIKE BERRY: Well, we'll be back to you soon.

SYBIL MADISON: Can I add-- yeah, I was going to just add. I agree with everything that Iona said. I think one, at the city we're trying to work on that information gap. We know that the One Summer application makes it easier for young people. And we're trying to make sure that more people know about that. And of course, COVID has really brought to light the gap in access to just information. And when we talk about the young people that we're most concerned about reaching the harder-to-reach young people, young people whose families might be less connected. We know we have to bridge that information gap.

I think the second thing that we're really trying to work on internally and would love to work on-- continue to work more intentionally with partners like Thrive, like The Apprenticeship network-- is making those handoffs. We know that young people who are considered harder to reach families who are less connected, need warm and what we call sticky handoffs. And so we've been really trying to organize internally, especially we started to have conversations among all of our departments that are serving young people to say, hey, how do we make a warm and sticky handoff between the young people that CPS is supporting in juvie to jobs that One Summer is offering.

Because that young person actually has to be-- and sometimes literally-- taken over and walked through that process. And how do we also make a warm and sticky handoff from the end of that summer, the end of that six weeks for those students that we know are not returning to a school setting and don't have another job after that six weeks. And working with partners like City Colleges, but also partners like Michael, to think about how we create those pathways. So it's not by happenstance or accident that young people who need more assistance and support navigating and then actually connecting to these opportunities are able to do that.

I think the final thing that I'll say is ideally young people would know coming into high school about all of these opportunities. It would just be made visible to them. And they would know that three years down the road or five years down the road there's a pathway to an entry level apprenticeship that leads to a job that-- and I was talking to one of my colleagues before the panel. Many of these companies will pay for your college tuition. So not only can you contribute to the company without having more than a high school degree, but then you can actually get supported in going back to school.

So I think addressing that information gap, coordinating within the city but also across city and private partners, to make sure we have these warm sticky handoffs for young people. And then, making these pathways to these opportunities really visible, and we can integrate that into the work that we do with young people when they're just getting started in high school or even eighth grade. So that they know that these pathways exist.

IONA CALHOUN-BATTISTE: And can I respond to Sybil? I know Sybil will respond to me. But in reference to those warm sticky handoffs. Thrive has co-created the reconnection hubs that actually provide-- that do exactly what Sybil's asking. So we have two reconnection hubs, one on the far South side that's operated by Failing Family Services. And the other one is Little Village. That's operated by Central States SER, and they have navigators that do just this.

We see in our hubs-- our hubs have been operating for about a year and a half. And we see the highest amount of intake during the summer sessions. Because each of those agencies are also delegate agencies with One Summer Chicago. And so they provide those warm handoffs that Sybil talks about. But we're just two hubs, and it's just six navigators. So there's so much more to do. But it works. I just want to say that to Sybil, it works. She's absolutely right. And we've got the data, and the information, and the narratives to prove it.

MICHAEL CHIAPPETTA: To add in there as well, I like the warm sticky handoffs. But some of our best recruiters are our apprentice graduates in getting those stories out there, whether it's something that we go through the media or social media, or they recruit within their community. Out of 125 apprentices, probably at least 15% of them are friends of apprentice graduates. That they go back to their community, they tell their story. OK, I'm going to enroll in City Colleges, or I'm already there. Now I'm going to apply.

And it's getting those success stories out there. And then, that will hopefully yield more people enrolling in City Colleges. And then as we grow, the number of employers on the other end of it-- hopefully that's a funnel that creates more opportunities without barriers.

MIKE BERRY: Michael, there was just a brief sound gap there. You mentioned navigators? Are these volunteers? Are they your apprentice?

MICHAEL CHIAPPETTA: The apprentice graduates are best for peer group. So the folks that have completed our program, and when other friends and people in their community hear of what they've done, then they follow their path forward as well.

MIKE BERRY: Great. Sarah, anything you'd like to add in this vein?

SARA HELLER: No, I totally agree with everything that's been said. I feel like you guys are honorary economists because you're talking about the sort of frictions in the labor market, the barrier through employment, in exactly the way that economists would. I guess the only other thing I might say about the sort of benefits of an organized program. So I think we've heard a lot about the benefits to use and how that sort of helping youth learn is that I think there's also benefits to employers to sort of being part of that organized program. Because the summer jobs programs that I've studied at least they're not just like a summer job. It's not like me working in a bagel shop when I was a teenager.

They're youth development programs. And most employers aren't trained in youth development. They don't necessarily know how to do that. So I think about this employer I talked to a few years ago who said, the biggest problem that my young employees have when they come through the door is that they don't know how to take constructive criticism. You tell them, you have to wear clothes and shoes to work, and they blow up in your face. And he said, I feel like my job as an employer is to teach them how not to do that. How to take that constructive criticism.

And that's an extraordinary thing for an employer to be able to do that, really, is youth development. But most supervisors are not used to doing that. Like, if your new employee blows up in your face about that, you're probably going to fire them. And so I think one of the things that One Summer Chicago does, and these other kinds of programs, is provide a kind of bridge and a translation in between supervisors and young people in a way that builds youth development that helps not just the youth but also the employers. So that's the only thing I'd add.

MIKE BERRY: I don't want to get too stuck on sort of practical considerations, but I had a question. Obviously with the pandemic, I guess a more significant number of positions would be remote. But I guess it's a logistical question. How much of a challenge is youth actually getting themselves to the place of employment, and in this current context, access to an enabled device? I hope we can-- I know those are big things for a lot of households. But perhaps we could just sort of, just in summary fashion, say, how big of a challenge are the logistics?

SYBIL MADISON: I'll go first here. Those are huge challenges. Last year a lot-- I mean, all of our community based organizations that we partner with had to very quickly convert their in-person programs to virtual programs. And honestly for some of our community based organizations, Wi-Fi and devices were issues. But fortunately here in Chicago, the public school system worked really, really hard to arm young people, their students with devices. And we have a program called Chicago Connected, which enables households to access free internet.

So I think that that was very helpful. And then, a number of programs like One Summer, After School Matters, raise money and form partnerships to provide devices to those students who did not access them through their schools. When the pandemic first hit, we had to find devices rather quickly. And there were households where you actually needed like, two, three, four, five devices for all of the young people in the family to be online at the same time. And of course, then you get into Wi-Fi issues there.

But we've learned a lot, I think, over the course of last summer and this school year. So I think that those challenges will be much reduced this year. And we've actually been trying to support organizations in really making that shift a hybrid or entirely in-person job and enrichment opportunities this summer, because we know how important it is for our young people to get out of the house, to socialize safely, and also just reconnect in person.

IONA CALHOUN-BATTISTE: Mike, I'll say, to add on to that, let's say prior to the pandemic one of the biggest challenges and barriers to young adults working was transportation. A lot of opportunities, a lot of training sites are located far away from where they live. There are not a lot of local jobs inside of Roseland or the Chatham and so forth. Having it be impactful for young people not being able to get to a job maybe on time. Sometimes the bus is late, et cetera, et cetera.

So those were challenges prior to the pandemic. So the pandemic has exasperated that now. And it has been even more challenging. So we would love to see more partners step up, like the Zipcars, the Ubers, et cetera, to help provide and offset some of this uncertainty sometimes of how to get to the job. The One Summer Chicago program has offered to a hybrid program has really kind of mitigated that barrier. And being able for young people to either go to a job locally, more accessible to their house, to where they live, and/or doing a hybrid program.

Now, during the pandemic we also saw everything that Sybil is talking about. We were really-- at Thrive Chicago, we were really very lucky to have a partnership with the Harlem Children's Promise zone. And we were able to kind of bridge that digital divide and provide computers and Wi-Fi devices for our community-based organizations that work with youth. And so that was just a start, like, that was just a little in the bucket, because we know there's such a big need here.

So we have been working feverishly to work with communication partners, big corporations. Because it's one thing to have a computer in the house, it's great. But like Sybil said, if there's three children and they all need to be on the internet, we need that internet to-- one, they need internet. And two, they need it to work. So we were actually been working with a corporate partner to help provide increased higher speed internet access, and to help our community-based nonprofits give out and distribute Wi-Fi devices. Not the ones that they get from like, the local boosts and so forth, but like, really have a comprehensive communication package for that family and for that household. So that they can consistently access the internet, thereby allowing them to really engage more thoroughly in this summer youth employment.

So I just say kudos to that. But this is not-- this is still an issue. It still goes on. It's still an issue that is going to happen this summer. And any work we can do with more corporate partners to provide increased internet access. And I know the city is doing an amazing job of providing-- trying to get free internet access for everyone. But until that time, there's a lot of work that still needs to be done, and collectively we can make it happen together.

MIKE BERRY: Sarah, is there anything in the research that suggests that some of these logistic challenges might be having a significant impact?

SARA HELLER: So I don't know that we've necessarily tested that question directly. But having worked with three different cities' organizations, you hear this all the time. So certainly, barriers to transportation. One thing I've been talking about with some cities recently is-- and this is not pandemic specific-- but the paperwork barriers. So in order to have a job, you need to know your social security number, and you generally need to have a government-issued ID.

And those are real barriers if you're part of a family where you don't know where your birth certificate is. And so, one of the things that some of the mentors, as part of One Summer Chicago Plus did was drive people downtown to sort of help overcome those barriers. But I think it's natural-- for everyone listening to this, to the extent you have any sort of touch points with opportunity, or with people who might be thinking about summer jobs, do you have opportunities to just help someone get an ID?

Before they're thinking about a summer job. Before there's like a deadline and a timeline that sort of makes everything stressful, where could we try to sort of ease some of these processes and logistical barriers? Should we be getting bus passes before the first paycheck comes through? That's something that One Summer Plus did at the beginning. For philanthropic organizations, can you fund Ubers, to sort of help get people back and forth? And so, I think there's all sorts of creative ideas that we could be experimenting with. I hope we literally experiment with them so that we actually can generate some of this research. Part of the reason we don't have good evidence on that is because it's actually kind of hard to find a researcher to partner with, and everything else to figure out if it works.

But imagine if some of these generally low costs changes could really help people participate. And so we see, take up is not 100%, there's always a fall off between when someone is accepted to a program and whether they actually show up, and then whether they continue to show up. And that I think is largely due to a lot of these barriers we've been talking about. So thinking creatively about places where we might be able to lower those barriers, I think would be super useful.

MIKE BERRY: That's great. I'm conscious of our time here. It's gone very quickly because the conversation has been really fascinating. But there's two more points I'd like to hit before we go. So Sarah, the evidence is plain that there's been less of an effect on longer-term outcomes. And this is for all of you, but-- and terrific results on crime reduction and some other aspects. What might we do to One Summer Chicago or to youth summer employment programs to help those longer-term effects, the labor market effects, to take a little more hold?

SARA HELLER: So I mean, I think we've heard a little bit already about the big ideas for that. Thinking about the warm handoffs, thinking about the apprenticeships, I think there's plenty of recent evidence in the job training literature that really structured entry into specific sectors and specific career paths can be very effective. So let me maybe answer that with the last big picture of things. So I think we should for sure be doing those big picture things. But again, thinking about some of the smaller barriers that might be easier lifts. A co-author and I are working with this summer youth employment program in New York to think about why these programs aren't increasing employment.

And one possible set of reasons has to do with some of these frictions or barriers for summer youth employment participants in particular. So maybe they don't know how to market their summer job in a way that employers respond to. Maybe they don't know how to search in the right way to find the employers who would respond to that. On the employer side, maybe they think there's a stigma associated with these programs. Because they tend to serve youth from underserved communities. And so maybe they just have a bias and aren't really paying attention. And they're not seeing that the summer youth employment experience actually did generate some skills.

So the thing we're testing in New York is what happens if we add a letter of recommendation to the program. So we developed some software to survey youth employers, and get specific-- individually specific feedback. This person is on time. They're responsible. They communicate well. I would hire them if I could. And turn that survey into an actual letter of recommendation that the youth could give to employers, and include on college applications, and other things like that. So that research is still in progress. I can't tell you for sure if it works yet or not. You're going to wait a couple of months, I think, for the answer.

But I think, thinking through again-- in addition to the big pushes, which are probably likely to make a bigger difference. Where are the small program pieces that we could address the reasons why the employment experience, which the youth talk so positively about. It really does change the way they think about their future and their own career. Even when they fail. When I was a telemarketer for a week, I realized very quickly that that was not going to be my career path. And so I think there might be some of those smaller program adjustments we could and should try as well.

MIKE BERRY: Michael, as an employer, any thoughts on that vein?

MICHAEL CHIAPPETTA: I mean, I think Sarah had hit on all of it. I mean, I agree. I mean, I think there's a lot of opportunities for employers. And I think the thing that's powerful with The Apprentice program that we developed is that it doesn't require millions of for new curriculum. It only requires bending the ear of a CHRO to think more creatively on their recruiting strategies with many playbooks to build off of it. So I think there are employers that have a misperception, like Sarah said, of what is involved in summer youth employment internships, or apprenticeships, or anything that is not freshly minted top universities, top GPAs. And I think the more that we collectively change that mindset with successful examples, I think that that will just continue to help to balance the playing field for everybody.

MIKE BERRY: Anything Iona or Sybil in terms of possibly how we impact that further outcome?

IONA CALHOUN-BATTISTE: Yeah. You know, at Thrive we've really been thinking about this issue for at least over the past year, way before the pandemic. And we do a lot of evaluation and understanding. We have worked with over 300 non-profits. And we really see that there's no real coordinated employment system solely focused on youth and young adults. That forces our young people sometimes outside of summer employment to compete with adults in the same workforce pipeline.

So having this coordinated system with shared goals the strategies that help align the systems in the workforce initiatives, the CBOS, and the youth, could all lead to more household sustaining jobs. And so we're doing lots of work at Thrive around really figuring out those innovative strategies. We love to be called this connective tissue, to bring all the people together to solve this.

Those little things, those little barriers in totality add up to be big barriers. And we understand that, which is why we were really proud to implement those reconnection hubs, where those barriers, those challenges can be addressed over and over again. And I think in the beginning of this discussion, Michael talked about employers changing their mindset around this, and around summer, and youth, and apprenticeships, and so forth. However, we know that that's a big dream and a big ask.

And so those reconnection hubs really are erected to really help address those employers that don't necessarily have the time to think about all these added a different difficulties a young person might have. So they need to go somewhere, they can definitely go to our reconnection hubs. But as Thrive is in totality through and across all of our programs, we really want to work towards building this coordinative collective system in which young people can go through a pipeline and really have, again, the options, the career pathways, the realistic expectations of them, and employers who care, employers who are concerned about their livelihood and really want to see and nurture them. Sometimes oxymoron, but we really want to be able to build this ecosystem that supports young people, and jobs, and employment beyond summer. So that they have this continued option.

MIKE BERRY: OK. Thank you. And you just mentioned in passing-- you mentioned Harlem Children's Zone. And obviously, Juan Salgado's name has come up. As it happens, Geoffrey Canada and Juan Salgado were the last two keynote speakers at our biannual community development and research conference. Two incredible stories and speakers. I guess we're getting pretty late in the day here.

But one thing I want to hit at the end here is-- what might you say to an employer who was thinking about-- and you may in fact be directly saying it-- to an employer who is considering a summer job-- instituting either something like Accenture does, or something-- obviously there's much smaller businesses that could employ people. What might you say to a CEO, or a business, owner or a manufacturing foreman, or whatever have you, or a person, to encourage them? Sybil, why don't we start with you?

SYBIL MADISON: Sure. I think that Sarah probably has the most compelling pitch to make. The research is clear that employing youth during the summer pays lots of dividends. Those dividends pay themselves forward in those young people's lives, but also in the health and growth of the city as well. And I love that Sarah mentioned that those wages go right back into the local economy.

So just thinking about the systemic implications of participating in this ecosystem of partners who are providing these work-based learning experiences is really important. We would love more private partners to raise their hand to join The Apprenticeship network. And I know Michael's here ready to recruit. And also join the One Summer of Chicago family. And you pointed folks to your website on Chicago Fed. And you certainly can reach out to us at the city. We believe that together, collectively, we can engage so many more young people.

And we know that collectively we can create these pipelines and pathways. We think that ultimately that kind of, as Iona said, coordinated effort is going to make the difference, especially for young people who aren't as connected to the information about these opportunities. And young people who may need additional support to persist and continue. But young people that we know have so much untapped talent and ability to offer.

MIKE BERRY: Excellent.

SARA HELLER: I feel like my job here is done because that was like a perfect summary of what I might have said. I guess the only thing I would add is hearkening back to this youth development idea, which is that if you're thinking about doing this, this is not going to be like posting an ad in the paper and hiring your typical entry-level employee. So there is a lot of uncertainty when you have someone who doesn't have any work experience about what it's going to be like. They're probably going to need a little bit of extra support and understanding.

But it's worth it because it's not just sort of, oh, well, I need an employee. It's partly giving back to the community. You are genuinely helping to make the city safer. And we know that violence and crime harms not just individuals but local businesses as well. And so you're making a positive difference. But you also don't have to do it by yourself. So if you don't know how to do it, get help. Talk to Thrive. To talk to DFSS. Talk to the rest of the city. There is a whole infrastructure of community providers.

And the community providers in Chicago a phenomenal. They've been doing this for decades. They know how to provide help. They know how to help us navigate conflicts between supervisors and employees, and how to help people figure out transportation so that they're regularly on time, or at least that they have to call if they're going to be late. And so I think the infrastructure is there to help, especially going into summer when violence spikes, it's super important to do it. So take the chance, try, and ask for help if you need it.

MIKE BERRY: Thank you. We have three minutes left. Michael, just, any quick thoughts?

MICHAEL CHIAPPETTA: I think that to round out the answers, I'll speak quickly. If you're talking to an employer, ask the employer, are you looking to balance social inequities within the Chicagoland area? If the answer is yes, here's a menu. Option one, One Summer Chicago, summer internships. Option two, apprenticeships through community colleges and non-profits. Option three, start hiring from all the fabulous universities that are right around your downtown office locations, like Chicago State University, Roosevelt University, National Louis University, recruit local. Recruit across the communities in every zip code.

MIKE BERRY: Thanks. And Iona, the last word, 30 seconds?

IONA CALHOUN-BATTISTE: Last word is that again, talk to Thrive. We are able to make these connections. No one organization, no one system can do this by themselves. And we are here to help support in coordinating all of the efforts of all of these systems. Everybody on the call, we're able to help coordinate them so that we make better options for our young people here in Chicago. Because that is what is really needed, and that's very important.

MIKE BERRY: Terrific. Well, thank you all very, very much. I think this has been a terrific session. And we appreciate your time and your information. And I can promise you we're going to be in touch with all of you. And I do want to reiterate that please visit for some more information and how to connect with Thrive. And with that I think I have only seconds. Thank you, once again.

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Last Updated: 05/13/21

Brighter Prospects for Chicago’s Youth: Strengthening Summer Jobs and Beyond

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