Even though this weekend is promising to bring sub-zero temperatures in the South Central region, it is never too early to start thinking about summer.

Summer youth employment, that is.

Research from the Brookings Institute shows that employment prospects for teens and young adults in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas plummeted between 2000 and 2011. Teens and youth adults fared poorly in a number of key metrics, including employment rates, labor force underutilization, unemployment, and year-round joblessness.

Harrisburg-Carlisle Metro Statistical Area (MSA) data on disconnected youth shows the employment outlook for our region’s most at-risk youth is still very challenging.

Harrisburg-Carlisle MSA - Disconnected Youth

(Source: Brookings Institute. “The Plummeting Labor Market Fortunes of Teens and Young Adults.” March 2014.)


A deeper dive into the latest American Community Survey data shows that there are concentrated pockets of poverty in our communities that have dismal rates of youth unemployment. A glimpse into Harrisburg’s 17104 zip code shows that the overall unemployment rate for young adults between 16-24 is nearly 34 percent, with an overall poverty rate of 38.9%.

Unemployment rate - Zip Code 17104
This data is critical to our work with disconnected youth in our region. It highlights the importance of developing evidence-based strategies for placing opportunity youth along career and education pathways that help increase social and economic prosperity.

One of the key strategies that has proven to play an important role in better outcomes for at-risk youth is meaningful summer employment. Summer jobs, as part of a broader work-based learning continuum, are the driver and main entry into a coordinated system of year-round youth workforce development services. For at-risk young adults, the opportunity to connect to work experience is paramount. Put simply, nothing can prepare young people for the rigors of the workforce better than actual on-the-job experience. Young adults learn to work by working.

Zip code 17104
Harrisburg’s 17104 zip code has a weighted youth unemployment rate of nearly 34%

Even though it still feels like winter outside, summer will be here before you know it. In preparation of this crucial summer work, SCPa Works will soon be releasing requests for proposals on summer youth employment. We are excited to engage with our dedicated community partners to develop the most effective strategies for providing meaningful summer work experiences for young adults. This is a critical time for our community in terms of serving opportunity youth – we know that the challenges that lay in front of us are far too systemic and entrenched for any one organization to effectively combat it.

More to come…