Growing our own: Sacramento mayor’s paid youth internship program launches thanks to budget surplus

Nearly 400 high schoolers are already in training

This is an expanded version of a story that ran in the July 20, 2017, issue.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s ambitious plan to get hundreds of Sacramento teens paid internships is underway just weeks after the city’s budget was finalized. The funds came partly from a $12.8 million budget surplus city leaders identified this year.

Dubbed the Thousand Strong initiative, the program has enough backing from Sacramento Employment and Training Agency, the county Office of Education and JB Morgan Chase that Steinberg’s staff already has 1,400 high school students in the application process—and nearly 400 are already in training.

“The mayor doesn’t waste any time,” noted Thousand Strong Program Manager Andrew Kehoe.

Nonprofits like Hawk Institute and Crossroads were among the 30 community groups that assisted in reaching out to youths with an opportunity to “get paid for real work experience,” said Erica Kashiri, the city’s director of workforce development. Regional Transit is also offering free bus passes to the selected teens. “We did not start from scratch,” Kashiri said. “It is the city coming together in a big way.”

According to Kashiri, the most sought-after internships were in the medical field and entertainment business. Computer science and engineering workplaces also generated interest. From prepping food at Mulvaney’s B&L and brewing lattes at Starbucks, to working around the Sacramento Fire Department and experts at Corolla Engineering, Kashiri said the program is already on its way to growing the region’s future talent pool.

“They are putting the money back into the real world pocket,” Kashiri said of the participating companies, adding that the glut of unpaid internships in the local market isn’t a realistic option for many teens. “That cuts off a whole group of people—not all students can work for free.”