When you were in high school and summer vacation rolled around, what was your first instinct? Did you yearn for leisurely poolside days, or did you want to earn money and grasp a meaningful opportunity to gain professional experience?

As summer has come to an end and students are back in school, the summer job market has taught us that San Antonio has both a problem and a solution.

The United States’ unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds is 9.6%, compared to the overall national unemployment rate of 4.3%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s 20.9 million unemployed young people. This high percentage of unemployed youth holds long-term implications for the future of San Antonio’s workforce, a vital component of its economic growth.

Home to one of the fastest-growing Millennial populations, San Antonio is a growing hub for families and young professionals. It’s critically important to employ young people so we can continue to grow our economy and attract Millennial and Generation Z residents – the generational cohort coming after Millennials – to move to or remain in San Antonio.

Neesa Johnson prepares a bouquet at an H-E-B floral shop. Credit: Courtesy / SA Works

Our high youth unemployment figures tell us that many young people in San Antonio looking for work have limited access to the educational and fundamental resources for a financially stable future. Not only is there often a lack of awareness of the opportunities available, but there can also be a feeling of isolation and hopelessness among those living in poverty.

So what’s the solution? Well, a significant amount of our region’s long-term prosperity depends on an easy fix. When we connect young people facing barriers to employment to internships and summer jobs, we create brief but meaningful opportunities for them to gain real-world skills, training, and professional growth, and development. Whether seeking a career right out of high school or moving on to college, students would stand to benefit from a heightened awareness of what is expected in small businesses and corporate settings combined with personal finance education.

A summer job is more than a paycheck. Having a job teaches professionalism, responsibility, and preparedness to chart a more successful future. But the impact of employment goes well beyond the interns themselves – it provides employers the opportunity to shape and develop a budding local talent pool for future job openings. Diversification in the workplace must remain a priority among employers as it broadens talent and perspective, and it must span age groups.

Recruiting processes are as varied as the jobs available, and starting or expanding an internship program can seem daunting. The good news is that San Antonio has resources to help. Several local organizations, such as SA Works and the Family Service Association, do just this: connect youth with local businesses and job opportunities. There is also a growing supply of return customers and advocates among our business community.

This year, Bank of America invested in developing the local workforce pipeline by working with SA Works and the Family Service Association to launch for the first time in San Antonio the Bank of America Summer Youth Employment Program. It combines the backing of a strong community of leaders with the City of San Antonio’s continued support to give 18 students paid internships with local nonprofits such as SA2020, the San Antonio Museum of Art, LiftFund, and San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside (SAGE), among other organizations.

Jason Gutierrez appears on Great Day SA during his summer job with the Clarity Guidance Center. Credit: Courtesy / SA Works

These internships allow students to participate in meetings, plan and staff events, and develop and conduct presentations. They also learn how these mission-driven organizations support our community with needed resources, all while gaining the opportunity to budget their money as they earn paychecks and plan for the future. But organizations like SA Works still need support from additional local businesses and employers in order make each summer a success.

Investing in students during the summer is an important initiative for our community. It is imperative that employers take on a bigger role in providing these opportunities to young people in order to strengthen our economy, talent pool, and employee retention. We all have a role to play in stepping up and taking a more proactive approach to filling 21st-century jobs in San Antonio. If your small or large business is ready to explore the benefits of youth work-based learning programs, click here.

As LiftFund’s President and CEO, Janie Barrera is committed to removing barriers for hardworking small business owners through access to capital, education, and business support across the organization’s...

Vince Fertitta is a native Texan and market president for Bank of America in San Antonio, connecting businesses, families and individuals across San Antonio with Bank of America’s banking and investment...