San Francisco YouthWorks was launched in 1998 by Mayor Willie Brown in response to citywide youth demand for employment opportunities. Since then, the program has served over 4,500 San Francisco youth, providing them with paid work experience while exposing them to the many different careers available within San Francisco government. The program serves 11th and 12th grade youth from high schools throughout San Francisco, providing opportunities to an annual cohort that represents the City’s diverse communities.
In 2010-2011, thirty-two City departments will participate in the program, providing funding and internship opportunities to over 300 youth. The diversity of available internships represents the broad nature of employment opportunities in city government, with youth placed in sites ranging from the Board of Supervisors to the Public Utilities Commission to the Department of Public Health to the Municipal Transportation Agency.
Volunteer worksite mentors host youth interns, providing work tasks and structured supervision to support them in developing important work readiness skills. These City department volunteers are the program’s strongest advocates:
“I wish this program was around when I was growing up. I believe that YouthWorks is able to provide the necessary day-to-day tools to build life skills that schools do not teach. I believe this program offers youth a way to become more well-rounded and well-versed in the real world as well as the workforce,” said a worksite mentor.
“Having an experience in city government gives students great perspectives on their own careers and open up a whole new range of options for their futures,” said Supervisor John Avalos, a worksite mentor with the program.
Over the years, many supplemental program elements have been implemented to enable youth interns to in develop career skills and awareness while successfully retaining their internships. The YouthWorks “Arc of Experience” supports youth at each phase of their internship, guiding them in setting short and long-term goals, reflecting on their work experience, exploring career interests, and understanding their own skill development.
Former intern Andrew Wu describes the program’s impact this way: “It is important for youth to have jobs. I’m not talking about doing something and getting paid for it, I’m talking about a learning experience. It is important for youth to work at the Public Library or the District Attorney’s Office and not at a burger joint or the pizza shack. Without meaningful jobs, the city’s youth are basically set up for failure. We don’t need to know how to wrap burgers or fill soda machines. We need the chance to build life skills and qualities. In YouthWorks, I had mentors supporting me with getting to my chosen career field and helping me develop valuable skills that I will need in that career field. We need to develop those competencies that will create success in our pending futures.”