Summer Jobs Going Virtual During COVID: What We’ve Learned So Far

Since March, NYEC has been documenting how communities across the country are responding to COVID-19. NYEC has hosted COVID-response workshops, which have focused on future congressional COVID-19 relief packages, coaching youth through the job loss and search process, and labor market implications for young adult workers, among others, as well as maintaining a sense of solidarity during the pandemic. 

NYEC has also been contributing to the virtual convenings of other national networks, including the National League of Cities Reengagement Network, JFF’s Young Adult Talent Development Network, the Aspen Opportunity Youth Forum, CFE Fund’s Summer Jobs Connect sites, and CLASP’s Communities Collaborating to Reconnect Youth (CCRY). Each of these networks is doing admirable work to connect its members as they problem-solve during this time. 

Taking summer youth employment programs (SYEPs) virtual is on the minds of many NYEC members. While the Generation Z young people targeted by these programs are digital natives, there are myriad challenges to transitioning SYEPs: access to devices and connectivity, platform accessibility and confidentiality, youth engagement in a virtual environment, and even the intrinsic value of a virtual experience. In this post, we offer a way to think about planning for summer programs, information on different platforms for virtual learning and work experiences, potential next steps for local leaders and our coalition as a whole, and remaining questions for the field.

In future posts, we will describe some success stories from virtual services, what we are hearing from you people about how COVID is affecting them, and what we are learning about the long-term effects of COVID on the youth labor market.

How to Plan for Summer Programs During a Pandemic

Jon Baratta has been working with cities that are part of CFE Fund’s Summer Jobs Connect initiative. He encourages local leaders to think about the transition to virtual offerings touchpoint-by-touchpoint, including: 

  • Recruitment and enrollment
  • Orientation and documentation
  • Payroll, time tracking, and other logistics
  • Connectivity
  • Job readiness and career exploration
  • Skill building or training
  • Work experience 
  • Employer engagement and case management 

What Platforms Are Available? What Do They Do?

We have grouped platforms below as ones that offer a comprehensive suite of services and ones that specialize in different touchpoints with young people. We also highlight a couple platforms created by NYEC members.

Comprehensive Platforms

  • Career EDGE: Career EDGE uses a suite of options called Career TEAM to offer orientations, professional development, video interviews, an employer matchmaking system, and an array of back-end options such as time tracking. Washington, DC, has used Career EDGE.
  • Hats and Ladders: Originally designed for New York City, Hats and Ladders offers orientation programming, career exploration, career-building experiences, skills development and increased self awareness. Clients use game mechanics, occupational data and personalized instruction to make young adults more career ready.
  • LinkedIn Learning: LinkedIn Learning provides an opportunity to supplement existing curriculums with over 16,000 skill building modules, including some that lead to badges and credentials.
  • LRNG: Now part of Southern New Hampshire University, LRNG offers orientation programming and a huge array of badges and credentials through skill-focused “playlists.” Youth are able to access local and national opportunities with a combination of online and in-person experience provided through LRNG. 
  • Naviance: Naviance provides comprehensive courses focused on college, career and life readiness for school districts, students and their parents. Naviance provides tools such as Naviance ActiveMatch that matches students to your institution just as they are beginning to research colleges and helps students gain awareness of new educational opportunities. The Philadelphia Youth Network has used Naviance.
  • Virtual Job Shadow: VJS offers module-based job readiness and career exploration, through which young people evaluate their unique strengths and interests, investigate a variety of career options, explore an array of post-secondary education opportunities, and set goals.

Virtual Internship and Work-Experience Platforms

  • InsideSherpa: InsideSherpa offers virtual skill building through an open access platform. Employers design Virtual Work Experiences that simulate work tasks. 
  • Paragon One: Paragon One provides a directory for unpaid virtual work experiences that builds in mentorship and training. The externships are remote and provide access to competitive industries such as marketing, corporate finance and NGOs. 
  • Symba: The Symba platform provides skill building and employer engagement, as well project management, engagement and performance feedback for employers. The America’s Promise YES Project is exploring Symba. 

Specialized Platforms

  • Community Software Solutions: customizable documentation, payroll, and other back-end solutions with a youth-workforce focus
  • Empower: Empower is a financial empowerment app with access to banking and coaching that has been used by SYEPs.
  • Explore Work: Explore Work offers job readiness and career exploration modules targeted to youth with disabilities. 
  • JotForm: secure, customizable platform for documentation and information collection
  • ShareFile: secure, customizable platform for sharing files and documentation, used by Philadelphia Youth Network

Career Exploration Video Resources 

A Virtual Platform Created by a NYEC Member

Pathways Consultants’ CareerHub is a FERPA-compliant platform for communicating with young people, including over text message services. Kim Coulthurst of Pathways gives an example of a text prompt to build executive skills with young people: “Think about three decisions you’ll make between now and Monday. We’ll discuss them later.” Programs can also use CareerHub to provide gift cards through the platform. 

Questions for the Field

Through our future COVID response workshops for NYEC members, we will seek to tackle questions such as:

  • What does a high-quality virtual summer experience look like? 
  • What are the key differences between a first work experience conducted virtually and in-person? What can programs do to fill gaps in these experiences?
  • What structures or activities combat burn-out for youth and adults already spending many hours in virtual environments?
  • How are we broadening accessibility for youth with disabilities on virtual platforms? 
  • How are we maintaining confidentiality and cyber-security within these platforms?
  • What does the expansion of AI and VR solutions do to counterbalance the lack of face-to-face interaction?
  • How can virtual platforms increase the reach of opportunities for youth geographically, in nontraditional fields, and/or entrepreneurially?
  • Who is responsible for paying for devices and platforms needed for virtual SYEP experiences? 

Next Steps

Youth workforce organizations need funding to support virtual services during and after the pandemic, for purchases such as devices for participants and staff, home internet plans for young people without them, and platforms for virtual internships and case management. SYEP programs need access to technical assistance as they transition to virtual environments. While the Department of Labor offers resource lists, Congress must appropriate dedicated funding to assist with this transition. 

To build the field, NYEC will continue to partner with other networks to bring high-quality programming and information sharing to our members. Next week we’ll describe some success stories emerging from the transition to virtual services.

Join Us at the All Youth Connecting Forum to Continue the Conversation

We hope that our members, partners, and allies will join us June 22-25th 2020 for the All Youth Connecting Forum. This virtual forum will explore different topics such as SYEP, Young People and the Green Economy, and the Post COVID-19 Economy. Preview the agenda and register today!