On Thursday, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee rolled out a project near and dear to his heart: a summer employment initiative aimed at homeless and low-income teenagers.
The initiative hopes to get 5,000 summer jobs and paid internships for young people ages 14 to 24, with a focus on disadvantaged youth.
“I'm calling on all San Francisco companies to take on this challenge to support the youth of San Francisco,” said Lee in a statement. “Creating meaningful employment opportunities for our young people today will set them up for success now and in the future.”
The program is San Francisco’s local response to President Obama’s call to businesses, nonprofits, and governments to work together to create 250,000 jobs for low-income and disconnected youth this summer.
The city already hires 2,500 young people annually, and Lee wants private companies to match that. So far, 15 companies, including Jamba Juice and UPS, have agreed to provide funding for subsidized positions. PG&E and Bank of America will also contribute $100,000 and 50,000 respectively to the effort.
With less kids then ever on the homefront, programs like Lee's may provide a much-needed incentive for San Franciscans to keep their kids in the city. As The Huffington Post reported in March, only 13.4 percent of the city's approximately 800,000 residents are under the age of 18. The mayor's initiative specifically addresses San Franciscans who cannot afford to leave the city, including its large population of homeless youth.
From the beginning of his time in office, Lee has acknowledged a need to find jobs for the city's young people. When asked when he felt the most joy in his first 100 days as mayor, he touted his success on the matter. "When I got some youth some additional summer camp jobs," he said during a recent appearance at the Commonwealth Club, "that made me smile."
Unemployment among youth is much higher than the general population. California's overall unemployment rate is 11.4 percent, but it rises to 17.3 percent among individuals ages 20 to 24 and to a whopping 35.3 percent among those ages 16 to 19.
“Last year, 1 in 5 of California young adults, ages 16 to 24, were unemployed but actively seeking employment and willing to work. We need to create opportunities for them to gain the professional skills that will enable them to become financially stable and contribute to our community,” said United Way of the Bay Area CEO Anne Wilson in a statement. “I urge Bay Area companies to rise to the challenge by pledging jobs or sponsoring summer internships that will give youth the support they need to infuse our economy with new skills and leadership."
Lee also acknowledged the efforts of two programs already working in the city, YouthWorks and Project Pull. Both are summer internship programs that connect high school students with positions in city departments and mentors in the field.