Civic Tech Can Improve Summer Youth Employment. Here’s How.

With unemployment for young people skyrocketing to 20% in recent years, finding a summer job is harder—and more important—than ever before

Every year, 3.4 million young people who want a job can’t find one.

Today’s youth unemployment rate is almost 20%, nearly five times higher than for the general population, and the unemployment rate for young people of color is even higher. Every year, 3.4 million young people who want a job can’t find one.

  • The county has seen a a 40% decline in summer youth employment from 1999–2013
  • Even more striking, if a teen from the more affluent family where white and the teen from the poorer family black, the white teen would be five times more likely to be employed for the summer

We need to engage businesses and build job programs

There is no doubt that improving engagement among private-sector businesses and job placement programs is a crucial next step. We need to build the capacity of summer youth employment programs so they can employ more people and support more employers.

Tackling the problem in Boston

That’s exactly what’s happening in Boston. The City of Boston, the Boston Foundation, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), and Code for Boston have partnered to increase access to summer jobs for thousands of local youth. This cross-sector partnership is part of the Civic Tech and Data Collaborative (CTDC), a national initiative of Living Cities, National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, and Code for America.

The algorithm has the potential to help connect young people with better jobs, and it may also save staff thousands of hours per year trying to match people manually.

This summer, the team is working with MIT’s Department of Economics to test the matching algorithm and evaluate it against current workflows for effectiveness and efficiency. When the youth jobs tool is complete, it could be used to create a unified summer jobs portal shared by three different Boston summer job programs. The tool could also be released for other communities to use as open-source software, helping more programs seeking to modernize their approach and maximize the number of youth and employers who benefit from the program.

Building up and building out

Finding a summer job isn’t what it used to be. These programs must change with the time, and I hope more cities and regions follow the lead of innovative peers like Boston.



Code for America blog features thoughts from our staff and members of our national Network on how we build a resilient government that effectively and equitably serves all Americans

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Efrem Bycer

Economic development, social impact, civic engagement, and brewer of Beeraucracy. #DadLife