Anticipating growth, summer employment program for county youth seeks new employers

Organizers of a summer employment and job training program for Washtenaw County youth are hoping to attract more local employers to participate as the program grows in its fourth year.


The Summer19 program is a collaboration between Michigan Works Association, the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development, and the University of Michigan (U-M). It started as a 10-week summer pilot program in 2016 with 26 businesses employing 50 youth in paid summer jobs. The program grew to include about 75 youth ages 16-24 in 2017, and then grew again to employ about 100 young people in 2018. This year, organizers hope to expand even further.


"Ambitiously, we'd like to get 150 young people, but we would be really happy with 125," says Julia Weinert, associate director of U-M's Poverty Solutions. "We're eager to grow, and I think we can find more employers who are interested. Young people are beginning to hear about the program and have a positive experience with it."


Employers must commit to interviewing potential employees, as well as providing training and orientation. They also have to commit to paying the participants without a high school degree $10 an hour, or $12 an hour for those who do have a degree.


Participating youth commit to attending an entire month of "soft skills" training before being matched with employers, and then working a minimum of 20 hours per week for the remainder of the summer program (June 17 through Aug. 23 this year). Weinert says soft skills training sessions will be expanded this year by participant request.


"We heard from young people that they wanted a little bit more interview preparation," she says.


Weinert calls employers "a critical part of the program," adding that she hopes more U-M departments will decide to participate this year.


"Especially for businesses that are interested in recruiting folks from the local community and building up local workforce, this is a great way to bring new staff on, get additional support, and network," Weinert says.


Information sessions for prospective employers are planned for Feb. 20, Feb. 27, and March 6 at locations to be determined. To register for one of these sessions, email For more information about Summer19, visit


Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She has served as innovation and jobs/development news writer for Concentrate since early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to Driven. You may reach her at


Photos courtesy of Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan.

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