What the Auditor has to say about DC's summer youth employment program - Technical.ly DC

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Apr. 28, 2016 11:09 am

What the Auditor has to say about DC’s summer youth employment program

And why it matters for #DCTech.

Future #DCTech talent?

(Photo by Flickr user ITU Pictures, used under a Creative Commons license)

What was your high school summer job?

Here in D.C., kids between the ages of 14 and 24 who meet a couple other eligibility requirements including residency and permission to work can take part in the Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program. Originally founded in 1979 — but renamed in 2015 — the MBSYEP is big, impressive, expensive and has just undergone an audit.

The Auditor’s entire 45-page report, released last week, is an interesting read as it compares D.C.’s summer youth employment program to those in other cities like Baltimore, San Francisco, Chicago and NYC. Overall the report found that D.C.’s program employs more youth per capita than the seven other large cities it studied, and also spends more per youth. In 2015 the program served over 13,000 individuals, and cost a total of $19 million.

That’s a huge investment, and the Auditor has a few suggestions for how the whole thing could be improved. In total, the report generates 10 recommendations for the development of the program, a few of which are worth mentioning here.

First up, the news you may have heard already: the Auditor found that for the past five years the District has failed to comply with legislation that requires a yearly independent evaluation of the program. Rather, since 2010, the program has been reviewed by the DC Trust — a nonprofit that, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday, is bankrupt and to be dissolved.

This, however, wasn’t the main problem with the DC Trust. Instead, the report found that the DC Trust was established by D.C. government, making it a poor candidate for independent evaluation. In a response to the Auditor’s findings the government promised they’re on it.

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Beyond this compliance issue, however, much of the Auditor’s report focuses on ways to make a significant program even better. A recurring suggestion? More private-sector involvement.

Per the report, more private-sector involvement could help diversify the funding base for the program as well as create a more meaningful experience for the youth involved. Unlike the other cities studied, D.C.’s program gets virtually all of its funding from local taxpayers. Here, for example, is a comparison to Baltimore:

MBSYEP funding structure. (Screenshot)

MBSYEP funding structure vs. a similar program in Baltimore. (Screenshot)

While obviously state-level funding is off the table, the Auditor does suggest that D.C. look into acquiring more federal and private support.

Other sections of the report go on to suggest that private sector involvement could lead to the creation of a part of the program that is designed not just for summer job experience but also, potentially, to help kids find real, lasting jobs. This would require buy-in on the side of private companies that goes beyond simply participating in a taxpayer funded program.

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So why does this matter for #DCTech, you ask?

Well, there are companies within #DCTech that have and do participate in MSBYEP. A recent example lies in Blackboard, a company that promised to participate as part of a $1 million grant from local government. As more tech companies in D.C. grow and succeed, they’ll be faced with the question of how best to give back. The answer to this question is, undoubtedly, different at every stage of growth. But it seems to Technical.ly that many tech companies could find value in investing in the youth.

Depending on how seriously the D.C. Department of Employment Services pursues the suggestions in this report, there may be the opportunity for more public/private collaboration on MBSYEP moving forward. For some #DCTech companies this could become an occasion to support the local community, as well as foster the next generation of tech talent.

Surely that’s an exciting prospect.

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