California needs a Secretary of Youth. The next governor should appoint one.

Cynthia Brown and Faren Chaney wait in line for an interview during a job fair for the new Golden 1 Center in July 2016.
Cynthia Brown and Faren Chaney wait in line for an interview during a job fair for the new Golden 1 Center in July 2016. Sacramento Bee file

A human resources manager typically spends less than seven seconds reviewing a resume, making it particularly difficult to assess talented job applicants who may not have traditional resumes or a four-year degree.

And in today’s job market, it has become increasingly common for employers to seek a college graduate to fill a job that does not require a degree, limiting opportunity for candidates who have to overcome misperceptions about work ethic and readiness.

Jonathan Hasak.jpg
Jonathan Hasak

This poses a challenge for California, which will confront a serious skills gap by 2030 with a shortfall of 1.1 million workers. Key industries, such as technology and health care, will be hit particularly hard.

California’s next governor will have an opportunity to expand the state’s talent marketplace by making bold changes to education and workforce systems. That includes creating a cabinet-level position focused on expanding economic opportunities for youth across the state.


A Secretary of Youth could help develop California’s first youth policy, starting by addressing mismatches in the youth labor market. A secretary could ensure that 700,000 young Californians, who are currently disconnected from stable career paths, have the tools and skills to advocate for changes in their communities, such as outdated education and workforce systems

At Year Up, a national job training organization that operates four sites in California, we work to catapult youths from minimum-wage jobs to meaningful careers in a single year. We have learned that providing a combination of hands-on skills development, coursework eligible for college credit, corporate internships and support can expand higher education and career paths.

While we remain deeply committed to delivering quality programs in California that help our students get jobs that pay more over time and meet the needs of our employer partners, we also believe our next governor will be uniquely positioned to help connect California’s young adults who need opportunity with companies who need their talent.

The creation of a Secretary of Youth would not just be good politics, but would position California as a leading talent marketplace for all youth.

Jonathan Hasak is director of public policy and government affairs at Year Up, a national youth job training nonprofit that has four sites in California. He can be contacted at