With jobs and internships canceled, Generation Z is entering a summer of uncertainty—and the damage could last forever.
The summer after her freshman year in a New York City high school, Carmen Lopez Villamil made $2,000 working in a molecular-biology laboratory. “Turns out I don’t like biology,” she said, laughing. “But it was incredible.” She got to design her own research project, worked alongside scientists, and developed a relationship with a mentor. This year, with her junior-year coursework nearly complete, Lopez Villamil was counting on another paid gig facilitated by the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program.
Those plans are now dashed. With the novel coronavirus killing thousands of New Yorkers, the mayor’s office has canceled the program, which serves 75,000 students a year. Many other ways for young people to pass July and August—internships, summer school, training initiatives, community-college courses—have been pared back, put online, delayed, or called off entirely. On top of that, as seasonal jobs disappear and mass layoffs affect a wide swath of business sectors, youth unemployment is reaching Great Depression levels. School’s out, and not much else is going on. “I don’t know anyone who has an internship or job for the summer,” Lopez Villamil said. “That’s scary financially. And emotionally—we’re going to get so bored.”