This year, Mayor Ed Murray’s Youth Employment Initiative hopes to reach its goal of providing at least 4,000 young people with jobs and internships.
Annaliza Dao, 21, worked a variety of jobs during high school and college. After graduating from the University of Washington in June 2016, however, she is still struggling to find employment.
“Finding employment in high school was easy,” Dao says. “Job hunting is difficult this time because I have expectations of where I want to work and how much I want to get paid, while the employer also has expectations on who they want their new employee to be.”
The City of Seattle is working to help recent graduates like Dao find meaningful employment that matches their education. Mayor Ed Murray’s Youth Employment Initiative, or MYEI, has opened up work and internship opportunities to 4,000 youth between the ages of 14 and 24 to help prepare them for a successful future.
MYEI aims to connect youth with resources and experiences through internships offered within various City of Seattle departments.
Various employers in Seattle have already decided to partner with the city on the initiative, including the Port of Seattle, Swedish Hospitals, Alaska Airlines and JP Morgan Chase.
In 2015, Swedish donated $30,000 in sponsorship funds to the initiative and created ten internships for youth between the ages of 16 and 24 at their various Swedish hospitals, according to the Swedish Community Benefit Program.
The Port of Seattle has nearly 100 interns this summer, employing the largest number of youth out of 150 employers participating in the initiative (not including the City of Seattle).
Despite having a decent amount of experience on their resume, many college students and recent college graduates are desperately seeking jobs that will advance them along their intended career path. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), people between the ages of 20 and 24 have a nationwide average unemployment rate of 8.7% as of June, 2016. African American youth (ages 16 to 19) are unemployed at almost double that rate at 31%.
The city is seeking more employers to help accommodate the growing number of eligible participants. So far, less than half of the eligible applicants have been able to be placed in positions, according to a press release issued by the City of Seattle. That leaves the rest of the 1,600 youth who were eligible for a job or internship position without a place in the workforce.
Hafsa Abdinur,18, is one of many teens who are taking advantage of the summer internship program this year. Abdinur immigrated to the United States from Nairobi, Kenya in 2013.
She currently interns at the Center for Infectious Disease Research, where her duties include job-shadowing scientists and helping them perform some of the steps in their experiments.
“I did look for jobs before getting my internship [but] they were mostly in vain,” Abdinur says. “However, I never had the interest in working part-time or in an internship while being a full-time student in high school.”
After deciding to pursue a career in medicine, she applied for an internship through the Mayor’s Youth Employment Initiative toward the end of her senior year at Renton High School. She will be attending the University of Washington in the fall.
“I think that this is a great opportunity for me as a freshman who is interested in the medical field, because this will help me understand the immunology of the human body and will greatly influence my passion [as I] strongly pursue my career,” Abdinur says.
The internship program selects participants based on recommendations from a teacher, school counselor, mentor or professional; barriers to employment; and the applicant’s level of responsibility, determination and commitment. Starting this year, Seattle Youth Employment Program’s internship program was made available in a year-round trimester-based model.
In addition to the summer internship program, SYEP participants also receive a variety of benefits during the academic school year, including after-school tutoring, career exploration, workshops and field trips. All of the programs develop participants’ abilities to meet their academic, personal and employment goals.
Applications for the 2016 Seattle Youth Employment Program third trimester are accepted from August 1 to September 9.
To sign up as an employer and host an intern, click here.
To donate to the initiative, click here.
Rhea Panela is a summer intern with What’s Good 206. Rhea is majoring in journalism with minors in English and diversity at the University of Washington. She is also the Digital Media Editor at the International Examiner and a writer for The Daily of the University of Washington. She was named one of the inaugural UW Husky 100 and was also one of the recipients of the 2016 Northwest Journalists of Color scholarship. See her previous work on her website and find her on Twitter @rheapanela_.
Fun Fact: She has an unhealthy obsession with Hot Cheetos.More stories by Rhea Panela