Primed for the Pipeline: Summer Youth Work Program Restarts

Posted on March 29, 2021 by  |  Share


Bronx Free Press CCNY SYEP Program
The city has opened its application window for the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP).
Credit: The Bronx Free Press

The Bronx Free Press spoke to Eddie Silverio, Director of Alianza Youth Services for Catholic Charities of New York, about the restart of the Summer Youth Employment program this year. A program that was cut down tremendously in 2020 due to the pandemic. On March 22, the city announced that job opportunities will be available this summer for 70,000 young people between the ages of 14 and 21. 

By Gregg McQueen
The Bronx Free Press, March 27, 2021

For many city youths, summer is a welcome break – to pivot right into work.

And no one is happier than Eddie Silverio.

The Director of Alianza Youth Services for Catholic Charities of New York, Silverio has embraced the news that the city has opened its application window for the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) in 2021.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “This is a win-win. It’s an important opportunity for young people to gain work experience and earn money during the pandemic, and businesses in the community get to engage with bright young talent.”

On March 22, the city announced that job opportunities will be available this summer for 70,000 young people between the ages of 14 and 21. The six-week SYEP 2021 work period begins on July 6.

“Young New Yorkers have been through so much this year, and our recovery cannot leave them behind,” said de Blasio in a statement. “I am thrilled the Summer Youth Employment Program will connect 70,000 young people to paid opportunities, and I encourage everyone interested to apply.”

The 2021 application period is open until April 23.

The program is making a comeback this year after a pared-down version of SYEP, known as Summer Bridge, was enacted during 2020. That effort offered half as many work slots – 35,000 – and was all-virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, last year’s summer job program was not announced until July 1 after being caught up in the city budget negotiations, which left providers scrambling to get ready.

“It’s so key that we know well in advance this year what is happening,” Silverio said. “We already know how many slots we have and what the circumstances are. Everything is more well-defined. It gives providers an opportunity to prepare.”

In 2020, SYEP nearly didn’t happen at all, as the Mayor’s preliminary budget had initially sought to cut the program entirely in the wake of a $9 billion budget deficit brought on by the pandemic.

“This year, we had a pretty good feeling this year from January on that it was going to happen and that it was a better program than it was last year,” Silverio said. “We’re just happy that SYEP is not being pushed aside this year but is being put front and center.”

“This is a win-win,” said Catholic Charities’ Eddie Silverio.

This summer, Catholic Charities will have 2,196 SYEP slots, Silverio said, up from about 900 a year ago.

Currently, the organization is connecting with potential employers in Northern Manhattan and the Bronx where young people can be slotted in for six weeks of summer work. Silverio expects to place SYEP participants in a variety of settings, including banks, hospitals, retail stores, schools, summer camps and city parks.

“For 14- and 15-year-olds, the program will be fully remote again,” Silverio said. “For the 16- to 21-year-olds, they’ll be given an option of doing in-person work, remote or a hybrid of both.”

Catholic Charities immediately began receiving calls about SYEP after the Mayor’s announcement, Silverio said.

“People were waiting for this and they’re really anxious to apply. It shows how badly young people need it,” he said.

Some participants might feel more comfortable with a virtual job due to coronavirus concerns, though others may jump at the chance for in-person work.

The 2021 application period is open until April 23.

“Especially for high schoolers, the ones I talk to are anxious to get back out there and connect with people. They had a tough year and only went back to school this week. They want to be out in the world again,” he explained.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way SYEP job slots are offered, it also presents an opportunity, Silverio suggested.

“When you look at corporate partners, they may not have the capacity to host people in person,” he said. “But it’s also a chance for employers to get creative in how they craft positions for remote work.”

“The pandemic also creates job roles that we didn’t have before,” Silverio added. “We could have youth ambassadors in city parks, handing out masks and PPE, things like that.”

Older SYEP participants are placed in jobs and technical training, based on their interests, that will expose them to career pathways, which the younger participants partake in project-based learning and work-readiness programs.

A flat stipend of $700 is paid to 14- and 15-year-old participants for their work, while SYEP participants between 16 and 21 years old earn $15 per hour for 25 hours of work per week.

Youth participants work in a variety of settings, including city parks.

“For the older kids, they’re earning over $2,000 for six weeks of part-time work. That’s a significant amount of money,” Silverio said.

“Many SYEP participants help parents pay the bills or contribute that money to the household,” he said. “This is going to be a boost in our communities and help a lot of families who are hurting due to the pandemic.”

Catholic Charities conducts assessments of each SYEP work site prior to placing youth in a job there. In addition, peer reviews are done during and after the six-week work period to make sure things are satisfactory for both participant and supervisor.

“We make sure sites are safe, make sure they have proper space for young people,” Silverio said. “We’re not just sticking kids in a room or sticking them on a phone and forgetting them. There’s a lot of work done behind the scenes to ensure it’s going to be a good experience for the participants.”

At the beginning of the SYEP period, Catholic Charities holds an orientation where participants learn about dress code, work etiquette and financial literacy.

“A lot of people think of [SYEP] as just a summer job for kids, but they learn punctuality, soft skills, responsibility. It’s training you for life,” Silverio remarked.

Participants helped conduct Census outreach last year.

As part of SYEP, the city is also offering Ladders for Leaders, a competitive professional summer internship that connects youth with leading corporations, non-profit organizations and government agencies.

Every year, Catholic Charities hires at least 30 young people who come out of SYEP for permanent jobs. Many of the organization’s SYEP participants have also been hired at other employers at the conclusion of high school or college.

“This program is a pipeline – this is a beginning,” said Silverio. “It’s the first work experience that many people have in their lives, or it inspires them to go to college to explore that work interest. Many people don’t realize that it’s a career and college pipeline.”