Investing in pathways to employment for youth in gang-impacted neighborhoods can broaden opportunities for many teens who struggle against the Valley’s widening economic gap, and can make San Jose safer.
Teen training and job placement programs have the power to reach disconnected youth and create pathways to positive outcomes. SJ Works has the goal of increasing youth employment and expanding access to job training. The Initiative is advised by a working group co-chaired by Josue Garcia, CEO of the Santa Clara & San Benito Counties Construction & Building Trades Council, and Matthew Mahood, President & CEO of the San José Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. Designed to address the intertwined challenges of economic disparity and public safety, the San José City Council has unanimously approved Mayor Sam Liccardo’s request for $1 million to invest in this Initiative in collaboration with the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force.
City funding will target at-risk youth between the ages of 14 and 24, in neighborhoods that overlap with San José’s identified gang hot spots. Together with the Santa Clara County-funded Summer Youth Employment Initiative, SJ Works will provide employment as well as job readiness, career advising and placement services for up to 1,000 youth. The County program implemented by Work2Future Foundation will provide 500 low-income 16 – 21 year olds throughout the County with a five week work experience and job readiness program, prioritizing foster youth and youth from families receiving CalWORKS and CalFresh benefits.
A summer job for any young person can be the first step in the pathway to long-term success. For at-risk youth, investments in job readiness and employment experiences can lead to the additional schooling and skill building needed for career track employment. Working in partnership with schools and community-based organizations, SJ Works will pilot new strategies to develop a scalable and sustainable system to deliver summer and after-school employment opportunities. By bringing together the strengths, resources and commitment of the private, public and philanthropic sectors, SJ Works will focus efforts on program implementation as well as outcomes measurement and reporting.
SJ Works contributes to larger set of interventions led by the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force such as San José Bringing Everyone’s Strength Together (BEST), the Safe Summer Initiative Grant Program, the Safe School Campus Initiative, the Female Intervention Unit, and neighborhood based programs.
Despite San José’s rapidly expanding economy, youth unemployment rates still exceed 20% in many San Jose neighborhoods. This mirrors a nationwide crisis that translates into a youth jobs deficit of 3.4 million–the result of a nearly 40% decline over the past 12 years. Young people from low-income families are hit the hardest with a 20-point differential in employment rates between low-income families and their wealthier peers.
San José has the lowest violent crime rate of any major U.S. city, and consistent efforts of our Police Department and our Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force partner’s schools, faith community, non-profits, and the County have brought violent crime down by 23% and violent gang-related incidents down by 60% since 2007. The reality remains, however, for residents of some of the City’s most challenged neighborhoods and the continued concentration of crime related to youth and gangs. For example, SJPD recently conducted 108 arrests of burglaries in the Southern division, and juveniles comprised more than half of those arrests.
With SJ Works, the City and its partners will:
- Quickly launch a summer youth employment program that leverages County and private sector funding.
- Leverage public, private and nonprofit service providers to help participants enter the workplace, gain skills, knowledge and meaningful work experience.
- Enable substantial gains in the number of at-risk youth who receive job readiness training and gain employment experience.
- Verify a significant reduction in youth-involved (i.e., youth as victims or perpetrators) crimes.
- Engage the private sector to identify potential opportunities for youth employment that leads to a career pathway.