City of Madison Wins National Recognition for Youth Jobs Program

Thursday, January 22, 2015 - 10:34am

The City of Madison was awarded first place among medium-sized cities in the National Summer Youth Jobs Challenge by the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM). The award was presented to Mayor Paul Soglin at the USCM Winter Annual Meeting in Washington D.C. today. The award honors the efforts of the City of Madison in providing meaningful summer employment opportunities for young people.

In 2014, Mayor Paul Soglin launched the City of Madison Wanda Fullmore Youth Employment Initiative, increasing the City of Madison’s commitment to providing youth who face barriers to employment with high-quality youth employment opportunities. The Wanda Fullmore Youth Employment Initiative provided 8-week summer internships to 21 teens who worked in one of 17 City Departments, Divisions, or Offices. Each of the youth was partnered with a City employee who served as the intern’s supervisor and mentor. Wanda Fullmore, for whom the initiative was named, retired after 39-years of dedicated service in the Mayor’s office, in which she served five different mayors during eight administrations. She got her start as a teenager 40 years ago through a youth employment program called YouthCorps.

The City collaborated with Briarpatch Youth Services and the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County in 2014 to recruit, train, and support the youth in their internships. In 2015, pending Council approval, Commonwealth Development has been selected to work with the City to place 30 youth in summer internships. The Wanda Fullmore Initiative is an example of the City recognizing the value of youth employment, not simply providing funding to the effort, but to become one of the largest employers of youth involved with agency partners.

In addition to the Wanda Fullmore Program, the City of Madison provides roughly $300,000 to six different agencies who are creating employment opportunities for 520 teens in 2015. These agencies include Operation Fresh Start, Common Wealth Development, Centro Hispano, the Goodman Center, Simpson Street Free Press, and Briarpatch Youth Services.

"As we work to improve our neighborhoods and break the cycle of poverty, these programs are crucial," said Mayor Soglin. "I am really pleased that both our partner agencies and City staff are working to mentor our youth and provide them with job training and skills. We will see the benefits of these efforts for years to come, and the national recognition we are receiving is gratifying."

Since 2000, the nation’s teen employment rate has been in freefall. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the teen employment rate in June 2013 was 26.6%, continuing to sit near record lows. In June 2010, the rate had dropped to 28.6%, the first time since World War II that the teen employment rate for June had fallen below 30%. In 2007, the June teen employment rate fell below 40% for the first time when it hit 39.6%.

Mayor Soglin’s Employment Plan, released in October 2013, recognized youth employment as one element of a two-generation plan and a key strategy to address the local disparities and opportunity gaps that exist between people of color and Caucasians in regard to income and employment. Youth employment and internships provide the opportunity for teens to gain meaningful and relevant experience that will support their educational goals and increase their future earning potential. These opportunities provide a venue in which youth develop the skills and attitudes needed to succeed not only in a work environment, but in the community as well.

A recent study from the University of Chicago Crime Lab and the University of Pennsylvania showed that a public summer jobs program for high school students from disadvantaged neighborhoods in Chicago reduced violent crime arrests by 43 percent over a 16-month period. In addition, a significant body of research demonstrates that developing career aspirations and drawing connections between education and work can positively impact youths’ likelihood of earning a college degree.

Also receiving the award today, the City of Evanston, Illinois for small-sized cities and Houston, Texas for large-sized cities.


  • Katie Crawley608-266-4611