Looking for a few good youths 

Melanie Pang, 15, is an ambitious girl. The George Washington High School student already works as a tutor four hours a week at the Pace Learning Center on Balboa Street in The City, and dreams of a career in the medical field. In the meantime, she has a shorter-term goal that meshes nicely with the needs of a program championed by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

She wants to work this summer, preferably in an office. And the Jobs for Youth program needs people such as her.

The program, launched in 2005, spectacularly failed to meet its goal of finding private-sector jobs for 500 San Francisco youth ages 14 to 24 in 2006, coming short by some 300 young people, according to Jobs for Youth Director Yuri Dew. This year, the high-profile initiative has set a more modest goal of finding such jobs for 325 young people and is focusing most of that effort on summer jobs.

Jobs for Youth leaders managed to interest businesses in the program last year only to have too few students ready to participate, Dew said. Meanwhile, City Hall spent $10 million in taxpayer dollars last year to employ 4,000 youth in the public sector.

"We haven’t been bold enough … to advance an initiative on a much larger scale," Newsom said at a breakfast promoting the program Wednesday, adding that there are benefits in enthusiasm and goodwill for entrepreneurs. "You get a sense of loyalty from that person in perpetuity."

Jobs for Youth is a project of the nonprofit United Way of the Bay Area, which partners with The City’s government to organize various San Francisco youth-outreach programs and screen young people. Those ready to work are found jobs with corporations that have agreed to employ young people in the summer. The program has now enlarged its staff and is working more intensely with both youth groups and potential employers, Dew said.

Participating businesses can be either large or small. Lawrence Flores Jr., president of the six-employee firm Proactive Network Consulting, hired one young woman last year to assist his engineers and work on the help desk.

"As a kid, my father used to take me to work. I don’t know if kids today have that opportunity," Flores said. "The lady at Jobs for Youth made [hiring the young woman] as easy as it could be. It’s a good opportunity to help shape a young person down the road."

At the other end of the size spectrum, McKesson Corp. (MCK) and its McKesson Foundation employ 35 to 40 youth annually, keeping some in-house and paying others to work at nonprofit organizations, McKesson Foundation President Marcia Argyris said. Johnny Parker, a manager at the corporation, said his former department has employed two to four youth every summer for years. He initially worried that he was signing on for baby-sitting, but his fears were allayed.

"I had four strong candidates in my initial offering, one of whom is now a McKesson employee working in one of our East Coast facilities in the tech arena," Parker said. "He checks on me every quarter just to make sure I’m OK."

On the Web: www.jobsforyouth.net

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