©Getty/Eduard Figueres

In practice

Boston’s landmark programme for disadvantaged youth: futureBOS


Boston, United States—

  • futureBOS provides paid work opportunities over the summer for people between the ages of 14 and 24, and guarantees summer paid work opportunities for those aged 15 to 18 years old.

  • The programme enhances the participants’ likelihoods to graduate from compulsory secondary education, teaches individuals workplace skills and community engagement attitudes, while also reducing their criminal justice involvement.

  • The City of Boston partners with local actors such as not-for-profit organisations, public agencies and local businesses to secure summer job opportunities for futureBOS.

What are the objectives?

futureBOS is a landmark programme of the City of Boston that connects individuals between ages 14 and 24 to summer job opportunities, supporting their educational and professional success. Disadvantaged young people, especially those from lower-income households and ethnic minority backgrounds, face higher rates of early-departure from secondary education. As a result, they are more likely to become NEETs (not in employment, education or training) and face social and economic exclusion as they enter the labour force. Offered by the City of Boston’s Youth Employment and Opportunity (YEO) Office, the objective of the futureBOS programme is to support young peoples’ transition into the labour market and reduce socio-ethnic inequalities in labour market outcomes.

How does it work in practice?

The City of Boston’s employer partners, which include local businesses, non-profits and public entities, hire young people for a period of approximately six weeks over the summer. Young people typically complete up to 25 hours of work per week paid at the Massachusetts minimum wage. Young people can be placed in subsidised or unsubsidised employment based on the application process. In the case of subsidised jobs, young people work in a not-for-profit organisation or public organisation. Those in subsidised employment benefit from the SuccessLink programme within futureBOS. In SuccessLink, young people also benefit from job-readiness training provided by an external provider.

The City of Boston engages in a host of partnerships with employers and providers as part of futureBOS. In 2023, the city partnered with over 200 not-for-profit organisations, city agencies and other youth employment providers to secure jobs for young people. The City of Boston also finances providers to administer the programme, including the job application review process, supervision and administering the training portion of the programme. Through these partnerships, the programme supported over 9 300 young Bostonians into jobs during the summer of 2023. Moreover, the City of Boston mobilised around USD 18.7 million from local, Massachusetts state and private financing to support youth summer jobs in 2023 alone.

What has been the impact?

Evaluations carried out on programme highlight its positive outcomes for young participants. According to an evaluation led by Modestino and Paulsen, based on 2015 cohorts, those that participated in the programme were 4.4 percentage points more likely to complete secondary school (high school) education while being 2.5 percentage points less likely to leave secondary school early. Furthermore, participants displayed higher academic results during the first year after completing the programme, compared to those that did not.

An evaluation conducted jointly by the City of Boston Mayor’s Office for Workforce Development and Northeastern University provides further evidence on impact. Published in 2017, the evaluation analysed short-term indicators measured through surveys before and after the programme, including social skills, community engagement, job readiness and academic aspirations. The evaluation also analysed long-term effects based on administrative records, including criminal justice, education and employment outcomes.

Programme participation drove strong short-term outcomes compared to a control group. The evaluation shows that participants recorded much higher job-readiness skills after programme participation. For example, programme participants were 24.5% more likely to have a resume after the programme than those in the control group. One of the strongest outcomes included participants’ community engagement, with their attitude that they can contribute to their community increasing by over 15 percentage points, a significant increase compared to the control group. Youth who participated in the programme also reported higher aspirations to attend two or four-year post-secondary educational tracks compared to the control group.

The evaluation also reveals positive long-term outcomes, one year after programme completion, especially for at-risk young people. Based on administrative records from twelve to eighteen months after 2015 participation, data shows a 35% reduction in violent crime within programme participants. Compared to the control group, participants also showed much higher rates of school attendance after the programme. Although employment outcomes, including recruitment and wages, were not significantly different than those who did not engage in the programme, some sub-groups did report significantly higher employment outcomes than the control groups. Older young people, for example, recorded stronger employment outcomes one year after the programme than their peer who did not participate.

What can other communities learn from this example?

  • A well-designed youth summer jobs programme can have positive effects of job-readiness skills, school attendance and youth attitudes towards positive engagement in their community.

  • A youth summer jobs programme can also support longer-term outcomes such as reduced criminal justice involvement and higher educational aspirations, factors that can support lower NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training) rates.

  • The success of Boston’s futureBOS programme is supported by partnerships built by the city with local actors. Among those are not-for-profit organisations, public agencies and local businesses prepared to offer young people job opportunities.

OECD resources

OECD (2024), Challenging Social Inequality Through Career Guidance: Insights from International Data and Practice, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/619667e2-en

OECD, Recommendation of the Council on Creating Better Opportunities for Young People, OECD/LEGAL/0474, https://legalinstruments.oecd.org/en/instruments/OECD-LEGAL-0474.

OECD Career Readiness project, https://www.oecd.org/education/career-readiness/.