Youth Training Wage Update

Youth Training Wage Update

by Peg Thomas

Executive Directors and Leaders of nonprofits and foundations have created a Youth Training Wage recommendation to Minneapolis and St. Paul. We believe in a sustainable wage for all, but also believe that the wage as currently implemented in Minneapolis has unintended consequences on youth training programs. These programs are designed to assist youth as they move from high school to gainful careers. Youth living in neighborhoods with multiple supports may not need these programs as much as youth living in areas that don’t provide these supports. Youth training programs typically provide strong social and emotional learning, community engagement, workforce development and agile thinking. Sundance has typically called these Youth Social Entrepreneurship (YSE) organizations.

Directors agree that we support a thoughtful increase in the employment wage and believe it will promote economic security and an increase in quality of life in our communities. We oppose any carve-outs or exemptions for nonprofits, social enterprises, and small businesses, as well as for youth in employment settings.

For youth in nonprofit training programs, however, we support a different, equally thoughtful youth training wage that is based on a percentage of the prevailing wage for full employment. Nonprofit youth training programs commonly serve youth ages 14-24 and focus a significant portion of paid time on building job readiness and social-emotional skills, especially in youth who are low income and face multiple barriers to employment.

There are approximately 50 nonprofit youth development programs that train more than 3,000 youth annually in the Twin Cities area under this “earn to learn” model. We believe that the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul should determine a youth training wage that makes sense for these programs. Without a youth training wage, nonprofit youth training programs are at risk. On average, they will see at least a 50% increase in youth wage costs under an ordinance such as the recently passed version in Minneapolis. A significant increase in costs will force an equally significant reduction in the number of youth served.

A narrow provision in the Minneapolis ordinance that provides for a 90-day training wage for youth training programs is insufficient because it does not recognize the developmental needs or environmental factors of teens employed by non-profit youth training programs. With the passage of the Minneapolis ordinance and with St. Paul considering its own sustainable wage ordinance, this is the time to develop a collaborative solution that enables our nonprofit youth training organizations to prepare youth for the 21st century workforce.

We support adoption of a thoughtful youth training wage for youth in nonprofit training programs, for at least 18 months. We also support review, refinement, and simplification of the criteria for nonprofits to qualify for the nonprofit youth training wage.

Please contact Peg Thomas at or Matt Halley at if you want your organization to be a part of this movement. We are hoping to amend the current ordinance in Minneapolis, and influence the ordinance scheduled for St. Paul in the fall of this year.