Councilmember Silverman Introduces Bill to Strengthen Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program

Today, D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) introduced legislation to enhance the Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program (MBSYEP) by making life skills a centerpiece of the work experience, ensuring age-appropriate job placements, streamlining the application process, and reserving program slots for older youth who are not in school or working. It is part of her ongoing effort to create career pathways, build a future D.C. workforce that can meet the needs of our high-demand industries and small business employers, and build a strong pipeline for District residents into living wage careers.

“D.C.’s Summer Youth Employment Program has been the first job for generations of Washingtonians. It remains a seminal experience, and it has the potential to be one of the first and most influential opportunities to put our young people on a path to a successful career and a prosperous life,” said Silverman. “That was Mayor Barry’s vision, and this bill will help us fully realize that.”

As introduced, the Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program Enhancement Amendment Act of 2017 proposes strengthening the program in four major areas: soft skills training, age-appropriate site placements, pre-enrollment residency certifications, and program evaluation.

Soft-Skills Training
District employers repeatedly say that life skills like showing up on time, dressing appropriately, knowing how to communicate effectively with colleagues, customers, and supervisors, and being resilient are the biggest obstacles to District residents getting hired and keeping a job. These habits are most easily formed when we are young, which makes MBSYEP the perfect program to teach and reinforce these fundamental skills. The legislation makes these skills a foundation of the program and requires assessments for these skills at the program’s beginning and end to determine overall gains.

Age-Appropriate Placements
A new classification system would be implemented to standardize which jobs are age-appropriate for participants. Participants 16 years of age and older would be required to attend sites with hands-on work experiences (which would not include arts, camps, and academic programs) to ensure participants receive diverse career exposure. Participants 22 to 24 years old disconnected from school and work and holding less than an associate’s degree would be prioritized for placement. All participants disconnected from school and work would also be assessed for and referred to other education, training, and supportive services as needed.

Streamlined Certification Process
To better simplify enrollment for the 12,000-13,000 residents that participate each year, the bill would require the Department of Employment Services (DOES) to automatically certify the age and residency of as many residents as possible. Application deadline extensions would also apply to proof of residency submissions.

Program Evaluation
In addition to ensuring the program provides ample opportunities to develop and retain necessary job skills, the legislation would require DOES to provide comprehensive data on how participants apply these skills and their MBSYEP experience after the summer ends. The Mayor would then use this data to produce an annual report and contract for an independent evaluation of the program.

The legislation, referred to the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, was co-introduced by nine Councilmembers: Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent Gray, Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White, and At-Large members Robert White, Anita Bonds, and David Grosso. Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie and Chairman Phil Mendelson were co-sponsors.

Councilmember Silverman will schedule a hearing on the bill in January.