In his third day as mayor of Sacramento, Darrell Steinberg moved toward fulfilling his campaign promise to fund more internships for high school students in the city.
The state Job Training Panel, a state agency that provides financial support for vocational training, voted Friday to conceptually approve a first-of-its-kind pilot program that could provide up to $950,000 to train and pay up to 500 children from five cities. high schools with internships designed as pathways to long-term careers. The city has yet to develop a formal proposal.
The money would largely go towards reimbursing employees and trainers.
The state panel’s quick support for Steinberg’s idea is the first sign that his connections as a former state Senate leader could pay off in more money for Sacramento.
During his inaugural address Tuesday, Steinberg said he intended to provide paid internships to at least 50 percent of juniors and seniors in city schools within four years. The internships would aim to provide hands-on vocational training for children who may not be immediately college bound.
Then on Friday, Steinberg persuaded the training panel, which included a member he had previously appointed, to act on his request.
“It’s the beginning of our promise in our youth agenda,” Steinberg said Thursday. “My point of view is that remediation is very important, but preventing school dropouts and preventing unemployment and underemployment is more important… This is a way to have a broader conversation and develop a broader agenda that really links public and personal education.
The Job Training Panel is a state agency funded through an employer payroll tax. Steinberg’s proposal would be the first time the agency has funded a program for teens who are still in school. Steinberg said shifting focus from existing workforce members to those about to transition into the labor market was crucial in changing outcomes for children in neighborhoods where opportunities and expectations may be low, and where at-risk teens often lack basic job skills when they graduate. From high school.
The suggested program would provide participating children with two months of job and life skills training during the summer between their junior and senior years, then a year-long paid internship of at least 10 hours per week during their senior year. Steinberg said that of the initial group, about 350 children would be guaranteed an internship in their final year, with the goal of finding places for all participants.
The program would run at Hiram Johnson, Luther Burbank, Grant, Valley Hi, and Arthur A. Benjamin Heath Professions High Schools.
“The idea would be that those experiences would then lead those students to better know what they want to do when they graduate from high school and eventually lead to full-time employment,” Steinberg said.
Steinberg presented the idea to the enthusiastic training panel on Friday morning. The employment board voted unanimously to approve the “concept” and guidelines for the program, with specific details to be voted on when the city comes up with a formal proposal in the coming months.
“We’ve sent this message that if you don’t go to college there’s something wrong with you, that you’re already in your youth and not hitting the mark… That’s wrong,” training panel chair Barry said. Broad, a local attorney and lobbyist who was appointed by Steinberg and other Senate leaders before and after him.
Despite the potential funding, Steinberg will still need to find employers willing to commit to hiring the students.
Employment board member Janie Roberts, a PepsiCo executive who supported Steinberg’s plan, warned that many young adults have barriers that make it hard for companies to hire them. She said PepsiCo had a hard time recruiting young adults in the Central Valley in the past because they couldn’t pass drug tests or meet other minimum requirements.
“We wanted these people to join our workforce. They just weren’t qualified,” Roberts said.
Steinberg said he envisioned outreach eventually happening for freshmen and sophomores to address those issues and prepare kids at a young age to understand the expectations of employers.
“We want to include life skills and civics and all the other intangibles that are essential for someone to be successful in the workforce,” he said.
Broad also warned that the funding would be tied to employer retention of trained students. The panel would require employers to keep children on the payroll for at least 90 days after training or 500 hours in a 272-day period to qualify for cost reimbursement. He said finding employers willing to make those guarantees could be a challenge.
“The link that has always been the hardest on this issue is that you have to have an employer who is willing to commit to a child, and maybe a troubled child, that there is a job, a paid job, waiting for you if you stay. in school, if you dedicate yourself to doing this training,” Broad said. “Employers are reluctant to do that in this society.”
Seeking to address such concerns, Steinberg brought an entourage to Friday’s meeting that included representatives from the Sacramento-Sierra Building Trades, the Sacramento Central Labor Council, Kaiser Permanente, the California Restaurant Association and others. Many of these groups, particularly Building Trades, already run extensive apprenticeship or internship programs, and Steinberg suggested they could make it easier for employers to get involved.
Alycia Harshfield, executive director of the California Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, said Steinberg’s program could be a natural extension to his existing internship program, and he might be willing to try to “bring employers on the scene.” “.
SMUD is another of the public sector partners that Steinberg has already approached. The utility runs an internship program for about 25 children each year and receives as many as 300 applications for those places, said Susan Wheeler, educational relations strategist for SMUD. Participants are paid just above minimum wage and assigned “meaningful” work intended to train them for future careers in areas including engineering and marketing, she said.
“We make sure they’re not just sitting in the corner scanning documents,” Wheeler said.
Devaughn Ogles is one of the students who participated in the SMUD program in 2012. Now 22, a senior in engineering and applied mathematics at the University of California, Merced, he spent the summer between his junior and senior years of high school working as Rodador’s assistant.
It was his “first job” and an “extremely valuable” experience, he said. The high school internship helped him earn an engineering internship with SMUD later on and taught him that “six-figure earners…are ordinary people who care about the community they live in.”
Ogles said that along with job skills, the internship changed his mindset.
“It set me up for the rest of my life, honestly,” Ogles said. “I started to see things from a different perspective.”
This story was originally published December 16, 2016 5:37 p.m.