Mayor Ed Lee’s summer job program for youths helped 5K, lagged in private sector

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerJuicy work: Jamba Juice was one of the private-sector employers that hired youths this summer. See who the top 10 job providers were below the article.

Although San Francisco’s summer jobs initiative failed to create all 2,500 of the desired private-sector positions, it surpassed Mayor Ed Lee’s overall goal of 5,000 jobs by placing more youths in positions with city government.

Advocates and city officials are hailing Lee’s Summer Jobs+ as a first step in the right direction. City officials and youth advocates are evaluating the program as they prepare for next year’s effort, in which they hope to attract more participation from private employers while smoothing out other issues, such as improving the program’s Web site.

In what has been hailed as the largest coordinated effort to hire San Francisco youths, Summer Jobs+ led to the hiring of 5,268 youths between the ages of 16 and 24 between June and Sept. 30, according to data provided by the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families.

Of those jobs, 3,804 were provided by The City in various departments at a cost of $3,155 per job, or an overall cost of about $12 million. While the private sector did not meet Lee’s goal of providing 2,500 jobs, it did provide 1,464 jobs.

Several companies also donated about $250,000 to the program for a pool of money that was used to subsidize a portion of the private-sector jobs.

Eric McDonnell, executive vice president of the United Way of the Bay Area, the nonprofit organization that The City provided with $270,000 to place youth in the private sector, said overall the program was a success. McDonnell estimated about 60 percent to 70 percent of the private-sector jobs went to disadvantaged youths and about 70 percent of the private-sector jobs were those that would not have been created ?without the program.

But youth advocates have raised questions, such as how many of the private companies would have filled these positions anyway, and how many of the jobs actually benefited disadvantaged youths, which was supposed to be the program’s ?mission.

“The only thing that we’re a bit concerned about is a lot of the jobs were going to youth who really didn’t need a job,” said Nicholas Persky, who serves on the 17-member Youth Commission, which advises the mayor and Board of Supervisors on issues that affect youth.

The commission plans to hold a hearing on the program Monday.

The program was launched in response to President Barack Obama’s nationwide call for the hiring of low-income youths. Lee, who has cast himself as the “jobs mayor,” decided to respond by expanding The City’s usual efforts toward ?summer jobs for youths.

“We are going to build on the successes from this past summer and make sure even more of our youth get a job,” said Christine Falvey, a spokeswoman for the mayor. “Planning is already under way to increase participation from the private sector.”

Advocates of youth job programs say they are a worthwhile investment for a variety of reasons. Such programs help create a stronger local workforce and allow disadvantaged kids to help out their families and stay out of trouble. Young workers also tend to spend their money locally, helping out the local economy.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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