San Francisco YouthWorks was started by former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown in 1997. To address the aspirations of San Francisco high school students to gain job skills and explore future potential careers. This was a response to a 1996 Children and Youth Summit, convened by Major Brown, as a forum for young people in San Francisco to voice their needs to the city’s leaders. What was heard, overwhelmingly, was that the youth of San Francisco wanted the chance to learn and grow in workplace settings.
Mayor Brown’s solution was to create a city government internship program, helping young people gain valuable job experience while also exposing them to the wealth of career opportunities available in the public sector. City employees would volunteer their time to supervise and mentor the youth. Three years after San Francisco YouthWorks began, in 2000 the Japanese Community Youth Council, a nonprofit community organization that serves the children, youth and families in San Francisco, took on the role of administering the program.
Over the next few years, SF YouthWorks developed from a start-up to a mature, award-winning youth employment program. The program recruited diverse participants from schools and community-based organizations, created a youth leadership team, and designed workshops to prepare young people for future success. SF YouthWorks also forged connections with city agencies to expand internship opportunities and developed trainings to help city employees effectively mentor youth participants.
In 2003, San Francisco YouthWorks received the National Youth Employment Coalition’s Promising and Effective Practices (PEPNet) Award, recognizing the program’s successful use of youth development practices in the workplace. In the spring of 2008, San Francisco YouthWorks celebrated its tenth anniversary, recognizing more than 4,000 youth participants and over 300 career mentors.
In 1996, the youth of San Francisco called for employment opportunities, and today the youth of the city still rank job experience as their number one priority. As the only internship program designed to expose San Francisco youth to careers in public service, SF YouthWorks is proud to provide the young people of San Francisco with the opportunity to gain crucial job skills while exploring future career paths.