- Connie Yowell

In February, I was honored to stand up at the White House with LaunchCode, Philadelphia Youth Network, Microsoft, Hyatt, and other Champions of Change to tackle the problem of the summer “opportunity gap” for youth.

While young people from more affluent and socially connected families spend the summer at camps and internships where they can build their skills and resumes, it creates an opportunity gap for many low-income youth that contributes to ongoing gaps in achievement, employment, and college and career success.

Summer youth employment programs play a pivotal role in addressing the opportunity gap. A summer job serves as a launch pad for developing lifelong habits and skills for the workplace, however fewer and fewer youth can find them. Last July the peak month for employment just under half of 16- to 24-year-olds held a job. As a result, many youth find themselves in an ongoing Catch-22 where they can’t land a job because they don’t have the right job experience. Last year, 57% of recent high school graduates and 22% of young people with a college degree were unemployed or underemployed, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Meanwhile, ManpowerGroup reports 38% of U.S. employers last year couldn’t fill jobs because they couldn’t find workers with the right sets of skills.

This summer, LRNG is excited to partner with One Summer Chicago a summer youth employment program, MHA Labs, workforce development agencies, and many other organizations across the country to connect youth to playlists and digital badges.

LRNG Playlists are connected sets of immersive learning experiences that encourage young people to develop competencies in their areas of interest and acquire skills that prepare them for the 21st century careers, academic achievement and civic engagement. This summer’s workforce-related Playlists include job readiness, financial literacy, game design, and civic tech.

Badges, meanwhile, are digital micro-credentials that document learning achievements. Young job seekers can use digital badges to demonstrate their achievements on resumes or post them on LinkedIn.

Youth in Pittsburgh, an LRNG City, have been using this model to advance their career development since 2014. One high school teen earned badges for technical skills, such as handling camera equipment and digital editing, and creative skills such as storyboarding and directing. Through these online badging credentials, she landed an internship with a local media production company. This real-world experience eventually opened the door to full-time employment with a special effects company.

By working with youth to apply what they’re passionate about to matching skill sets in the job market, LRNG and our partners are building bridges across our nation’s skills gap, while keeping youth engaged in learning and career development throughout the summer months.

If we are going to close the summer opportunity gap, we need to ensure all youth can use their summer months to build the skills they need for success in the 21st century. LRNG is proud to work with our partners and the Champions of Change effort to make 2016 a summer of achievement for our nation’s youth.

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