NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Amy Domiano, now 23, worked an internship every summer while attending college.

“I was able to discover what I enjoyed and what was not for me,” said Domiano, who participated in a work-abroad program in Peru.

It was during her internship at this destination management job that she found her niche. “I learned very quickly the variety of branding that goes into the hospitality industry with luxury being one of them,” said Domiano.

But Domiano is part of a dying breed: there has been an almost 40% decline in summer youth employment over the past 12 years, according to the JPMorgan Chase "Building Skills Through Summer Jobs: Lessons from the Field" study.

Domiano counts her summer experience as integral to helping her land a managerial job at The Shops within Columbus Circle at the Time Warner Center in New York City. So why the drop off? 

“In large part this is due to severe reductions in state and federal financial support, which is why public and private connections are so vital to these important development programs,” said Chauncy Lennon, head of workforce initiatives with JPMorgan Chase. 

Without the help of organized programs, Millennials are on their own in securing summer employment through innovative means.

“I reached out to hotels in my hometown of Buffalo, New York my freshman year and simply asked if they had opportunities,” said Domiano. “My sophomore year I obtained a sports marketing internship through the annual hospitality career fair.”

Only 46% of young people who applied for summer employment programs were enrolled in 2014, and only 26% of young adults in the U.S. held any type of paid job in 2011.

“Early work experience has been linked to higher graduation rates, better future employment prospects and significant increases in earnings later in life,” Lennon told MainStreet.

During the summer months, teenagers learn the basic building blocks they need to get their next job; however, economically disadvantaged and Millennials of color have a harder time securing these summer internship opportunities.

“They face diminished opportunities to gain summer work experience, and employers are increasingly demanding a more skilled workforce,” said Lennon.

As a result, it is essential for young people to obtain early work experience and develop skills that allow them to compete for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

“Developing skills does not necessarily have to involve a paid position,” Lennon said. “Volunteering contributes to success in the same way that a paid internship or summer job would.”

In other words, if all else fails even work experience that doesn’t pay can prove to be valuable.

“Parents play an important role in a child’s life both as a provider and a role model,” said Lennon. “Parents should aim to provide a good example and support their child’s ambition to work hard and succeed.”

—Written for MainStreet by Juliette Fairley