Columnists Mayor Eric Garcetti Opinion

COMMUNITY REPORT: Setting our sights higher on jobs for young people

Do you remember your first job? Benjamin Rodas does.

Today, he is a high school senior and a member of my Mayor’s Youth Council, looking forward to graduating in June and pursuing a degree in social work. At 14, he was a kid looking to earn enough cash to pick up some of his own school expenses. He found an opportunity after enrolling in the city of Los Angeles’ YouthSource program — which placed him in a job at Central City Neighborhood Partners, where he has returned to work every summer since.

I want more young Angelenos like Benjamin to experience the feelings of accomplishment, independence and opportunity that come with earning a paycheck. Because while those fundamentals of self-esteem are important for every young person, the stakes are even higher for those who must work because their household needs the income.

That’s why I pledged during my first year in office to double our city’s youth summer jobs. We not only met, but exceeded that goal by expanding HIRE LA’s Youth, a program that provides career exploration opportunities to low-income youth between the ages of 14 and 24.

Since 2013, we have worked closely with the private sector and our county partners to connect more than 28,000 young Angelenos to summer jobs. Last year alone, we helped over 12,000 young people find work.

And we’re not stopping there: just last month, my office partnered with the city’s Economic & Workforce Development Department, Starbucks and dozens of national companies to host the largest youth job fair in L.A. history. Benjamin was among more than 6,000 young people who crowded into the Convention Center for the 100,000 Opportunities Hiring Fair and Forum.

Like hundreds of others in attendance, Benjamin received a job offer on the spot — and is set to start a new gig as a Starbucks barista. Benjamin credits YouthSource with helping “to improve [his] customer service and leadership skills,” and allowing him “to stay on track to graduate and find employment” amidst some personal setbacks.

The job fair is also where I announced our new goal to triple the number of year-round youth jobs to 15,000.

We will accomplish this by expanding HIRE LA’s Youth to help foster and homeless youth, young people from families receiving CalWORKs or who themselves receive general relief, and young people on probation.

It makes sense to double down on this strategy, because we understand the transformative potential of youth employment. A study commissioned by the Brookings Institute shows that high school students who work 20 hours per week will earn approximately 20 percent more annually in the future, and will receive 10 percent higher hourly wages than those who do not work.

The 100,000 Opportunities Hiring Fair and Forum was an inspiring place to set our new youth hiring goal — because on that day, I saw the bright future of L.A.’s workforce: thousands of smart, ambitious, motivated Angelenos working hard to get on the path to a fulfilling career.

They were interviewing and networking with dozens of private sector employers, registering for community college, filling out job applications and crowding into workshops on how to build compelling résumés. My Workforce Development team was there, along with our county partners to connect those who did not receive a job offer to soft skill training and subsidized employment opportunities.

It was powerful to see so many major companies and government agencies affirm the untapped potential of young people who are eager to get a jumpstart on their future.

Our calling is to continue harnessing that spirit, and allowing it to guide our efforts to empower future generations of Angelenos to pursue their dreams.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Community Report” column runs the first Thursday of every month in The Wave.