Sacramento finds paid summer jobs for disadvantaged teens

Know a teenager who needs a summer job? The city of Sacramento has one.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg this week announced a program that aims to put hundreds of high school students to work by June in minimum wage positions at local companies. The goal is to give job skills to teens who have barriers to employment or may not be college bound.

The program targets young people from disadvantaged areas and with difficult personal backgrounds. Students from about 30 participating high schools in the Elk Grove, Natomas, Twin Rivers and Sacramento school systems can apply. Those accepted are guaranteed work, said Erica Kashiri, the mayor’s head of workforce development.

The more disadvantaged the candidate, the better, she said. The online application asks if teens are homeless, have disabilities, are parents, pregnant or have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor.

Kashiri said answers are voluntary and won’t go to employers or the city.

“It’s to ensure the group is diverse,” said Kashiri. “The whole thing is opening access. It’s just giving that chance to those not typically given a chance.”

About 700 students are expected to take part the first year, with the program growing after that, possibly providing college credit for work, Kashiri said. The program has about 240 employers and 400 students signed up so far after unofficially launching days ago.

Participants will receive 40 hours of job training before working and will have job coaches and support services available. The city will work with employers to provide specific skills when requested, such as computer training.

Sandra Saevang, who will graduate next month from Luther Burbank High School, is already signed up. Thursday, she said the program would allow her to move from her McDonald’s job to something that can help her reach her career goal of being a doctor.

“I want to be able to work in a professional area,” Saevang said. “Mostly employers look for age and experience, and since we’re young, we don’t have much experience to give and there’s not much jobs we can find. This will make a big difference.”

Paul Douglas of Siemens Industries said his company will take multiple interns at its local manufacturing facilities. Siemens will focus on kids with an interest in science, technology, engineering and math. Siemens builds trains in Sacramento and has a West Sacramento facility that makes security, fire and other systems for buildings.

“We’re not just looking for help,” Douglas said. “We want to introduce these kids to opportunities for their career advancement.”

Come fall, those who want to keep going – and are succeeding – will be able to work up to 10 hours a week during the school year at Siemens and other employers. Participants also will receive free Regional Transit passes.

“This is fast and it’s big,” Kashiri said.

The goal, said Steinberg, is to create a link between local schools and the growing economy. In December, Steinberg said he intended to provide paid internships to at least half of juniors and seniors in city schools within four years.

Steinberg said he wants the program, called Thousand Strong, to eventually serve about 1,000 teenagers. The program is backed by more than $2 million in state, local and school district funding. Steinberg in December secured a promise for nearly $1 million from the state Employment Training Panel, an agency that provides financial support for vocational training.

The panel would require employers to keep participants on the payroll for at least 90 days after training, or 500 hours in a 272-day period, for the city to qualify for cost reimbursement. The city matched that state pledge with $925,000 from its general fund. Natomas Unified School District gave $150,000 to the effort, said Kashiri. Twin Rivers Unified is contributing $150,000, according to Sara Noguchi, associate superintendent of innovation, research and design.

Teenagers who will be juniors or seniors next fall or have just graduated and are 16 to 18 years old are eligible for the program. The summer jobs will last up to 16 weeks, with employees expected to work at least 35 hours a week.

Deadline to apply is May 19. Applicants can register in person May 15 from 3:30-6:30 p.m. at the Serna Center, 5735 47th Ave. More information is available at www.thousandstrong.org.

Anita Chabria: 916-321-1049, @chabriaa