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Bridging the Skills Gap with Summer Youth Employment

August 22, 2023

In today's rapidly evolving job market, the gap between available skills and ready-to-work talent has become a pressing issue worldwide. It is projected that by 2030, there will be a shortfall of 85 million unfilled jobs due to this widening skills gap. While it’s easy to dismiss the talent gap by saying, people don’t want to work, the reality is, many young people are simply unaware of the diverse, in-demand career opportunities and alternative educational avenues available to them. Rather, youth often gravitate towards careers they are already familiar with.

Summer Youth Employment Programs

This is where The Summer of Opportunity Program (SOOP) run by the City of Rochester and the Rochester Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) run by Rochester Works comes into play.  These programs serve as a career launchpad for youth aged 14-20 who are in middle or high school, or high school equivalency program. Designed to provide work readiness training and employment opportunities, both programs provide a low-risk environment for career exploration, hands on work experience and self-discovery.

The SOOP Experience: Ahni's Story

Ahni's story serves as a compelling testimonial of how SOOP can transform young lives and build bridges to future success. Ahni, at just 14 years old and having just finished her freshman year of high school, embarked on her first job with the SOOP program, working with the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce. Her interests in math, design (she enjoys working in Canva), finance, real estate, and entrepreneurship were the building blocks for her experience.

During her six-week internship, Ahni performed research, analyzed survey data, assisted at events, and shadowed meetings. Her signature project was researching local programs and designing flyers intended to create awareness among youth about available career paths and alternatives to college.  Once the flyers were created, Ahni attended a career fair to talk with youth 1:1 and share her work.  At 14 years old, Ahni demonstrated professionalism, enthusiasm, and dedication.

In her own words, Ahni shared that “working at the Greater Rochester Chamber has been an extraordinary experience.”  Highlights in addition to the youth flyer project included learning more about the city, connecting with influential community members, and gaining exposure to the career paths she aspires to pursue in the future.

How to Get Involved

Summer Youth Employment Programs are an invaluable initiative that address the pressing issue of the growing skills gap and our youth’s lack of awareness of available opportunities. Each year, several thousand local youth apply to participate and staff from both SOOP and SYEP work together to manage the application process for both programs.  Identifying businesses and organizations willing to provide meaningful opportunities for youth interns to engage in real-world work experiences is critical for success.

Interested in learning more about becoming a summer employment host?  Visit or or contact Melanie DellaPietra at


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