SummerWorks program seeks to pair Washtenaw County youth with employers for paid summer jobs

The SummerWorks youth employment and mentorship program is currently working to provide 100 young adults (aged 16-24) in Washtenaw County with paid, on-the-job training opportunities this June 13-Aug. 19. 

SummerWorks, a partnership between the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development, Michigan Works! Southeast, Michigan Rehabilitation Services, and the University of Michigan, has been pairing local young adults and employers for 10-week internships since 2016. 

The initiative is focused on giving young adults exposure to job training and experience that they can add to their resumes – all while earning a paycheck. They're paid $10 per hour or $12 per hour, depending on their completion of a high school degree or equivalent. Additionally, all SummerWorks interns are paired with an adult mentor and benefit from weekly professional development sessions.

"Whether students are in high school or in college or maybe already in the workforce, SummerWorks is ideal for anyone looking to improve their skills, build connections, and get more employment experience," says SummerWorks fellow Kathleen Hurley.  

She notes that the goal of making 100 pairings is ambitious, but very possible. Last year, almost 70 young adults finished the program and 45 different employers took on interns. Overall, since inception, SummerWorks has paired more than 380 young adult interns with more than 85 local businesses.

"The pandemic really shifted things and we had to make a lot of adjustments, so we're really focusing on getting back to pre-Covid numbers," Hurley says. "And with the labor situation [being] what it is across the country, across the state of Michigan, and across Washtenaw County, we're feeling that we'll be able to get people interested."

With that in mind, she adds that there is a big push this year to promote the program beyond school settings. 

"We're reaching out to schools and teachers, and seeing if we can promote the program through their classes, but we're also focusing a lot on engaging with local youth organizations," she says. "We're trying to reach youth who might not be in a school to make sure that we are providing the same opportunities for all young adults in the county."

Hurley is also expecting continued interest from area companies and nonprofits. She says those who have participated in the past consistently report having good experiences and being impressed with SummerWorks interns. 

"Given that we start our professional development sessions well before the beginning of internships, employers are always impressed," she says. "Our interns already have a leg up and bring skills with them on the very first day."

Internship applications for the program will be accepted until March 13. Businesses and nonprofits who are interested in participating in SummerWorks can visit the program's website and attend a Zoom session to learn more. 

Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at

Photo courtesy of SummerWorks.
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