Make young entrepreneurs in San Francisco


By placing young people in internships at small local manufacturing companies, they gain more hands-on experience in more areas than they would in a larger internship program.

Globally, San Francisco is best known for its Big Tech companies, but SFMade, a local nonprofit, sees manufacturing as the foundation of the Bay Area’s economy. He estimates that the manufacturing industry employs more than 300,000 jobs in the region and is part of the supply chain for everything from technology to agriculture to art. SFMade provides educational and training resources to local manufacturing companies and job seekers, and a big part of that is playing matchmaker between these two groups. Its goal of creating manufacturing career paths for local residents extends to young people. Through its YouthMade program, SFMade has placed 220 students on internships with small and medium-sized manufacturing companies in the city since 2015.

But the past year was unlike any other as YouthMade tackled the challenge of providing uninterrupted services amid the pandemic to its student body. YouthMade was born out of SFMade’s partnership with two local organizations aimed at helping young people gain skills through paid internships: Jewish Vocational Services (JVS) and Enterprise for Youth. The three organizations quickly innovated to introduce new features to keep the six-year-old internship program operational. Immediately, they created opportunities to place young people in brand new online internships with local manufacturing companies over the summer. A few months later, YouthMade launched its first fall internships with the goal of providing ongoing opportunities for students struggling with learning disabilities. As a result, 19 students completed summer internships and 22 students worked in fall internships last year. Going forward, students and participating companies will have the option of choosing between online or in-person internships.

Placing young people with employers looking to up their online game has proven to be a no-brainer. “We found that medium-sized businesses that employ 15 to 50 people needed a lot of help during the pandemic with tasks like remote data entry, accounting, and light client services like responding to emails. emails. Most important to our interns was social media, which many companies had put on the back burner before the pandemic. It was really exciting for our interns to get involved,” says George Colón, Director of Workforce and Youth Programs, SFMade. And while it’s too early to tell, he expects fall internships to be more likely to lead to job opportunities than summer internships due to companies’ hiring cycle. local.

Interns are typically low-income minority public high school or transitional students between the ages of 18 and 21 likely to be the first in their families to complete a four-year degree. Companies that host interns may not be nationally recognized, but they are often small, sustainable minority-run businesses with pride in the community that provide interns with full exposure.

Take the Latino-owned studio and art gallery, Artillery Apparel Gallery, specializing in the manufacture of ceramics, as well as the presentation of paintings and photographs. Or Ounce Cookies, which is a maker of handmade artisan cookies made primarily from plant-based and organic ingredients. SWOPE Design Solutions, an engineering and product design company that manufactures medical devices and consumer products, has a former intern placed by SF Made among its employees.

“People don’t understand manufacturing. They hear the word and think of a giant room full of machines. We want young people to understand what manufacturing is, how to start a business, and how to run and grow it. Manufacturing is a driver for entrepreneurship,” says Colón. SFMade’s youth partner organizations have found that hands-on small business operations give interns much broader exposure than traditional large company internships that assign interns to a single department.

In addition to job skills, paid internships also provide an immediate financial benefit to students, many of whom attend the San Francisco Unified School District and come from families who have struggled to pay the bills during the pandemic. “We prioritize people who have historically been excluded from educational and employment opportunities,” says Steven Sanford, associate director of high school and transition programs at JVS.

Providing youth internships is an integral part of SFMade’s goal of making urban manufacturing a driver of economic equity. In order to share his learnings with other organizations working to encourage youth employment in the manufacturing sector, he made a toolkit available on its website Internships are based on curricula designed by JVS and Enterprise for Youth. This includes familiarizing them with the history of local manufacturing, supply chains and entrepreneurship through instruction and field visits to local businesses before the internships begin. The training sessions, which incorporate guest speakers and digital tools, encourage dialogue and youth participation.

YouthMade was created for the benefit of young people, but it also provides a learning experience for employers. “Employers will also learn something about working with young people and meeting them where they are. Perhaps the experience of working with a young person will encourage companies to make changes internally to reach a wider audience of job seekers,” says Colón.

This article is part of Elements of a Fair Recovery, a series on solutions that help small businesses, especially those owned by women and minorities, survive and thrive. This series is generously guaranteed by LISC.

Deepali Srivastava is a writer and editor whose articles on economic and environmental issues have appeared in Forbes Asia, and As founder and president of Script the Future, she also provides editorial services to organizations.


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