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Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer, who represents a district that encompasses much of North County San Diego, is proposing a mentorship and green jobs program for youth. Photo by Jordan P. Ingram
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Update: Supervisors OK starting jobs program for youth, with green focus

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REGION – The San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted today to spend $500,000 on a new program, called Youth Environmental/Recreational Corp, to help young people with career opportunities.

Supervisors Terra Lawson-Remer and Nora Vargas said they proposed the initiative “to help young people in the region jumpstart their careers amid the pandemic-induced recession.”

Once it gets underway, the program will support career readiness, workforce development and mentorship, and will be open to any county resident between 16 and 24 years old. It will also provide paid employment opportunities for low-income youth through county departments, with a focus on careers in the green economy, according to Lawson-Remer and Vargas.

Lawson-Remer said that in her younger years, being around mentors helped her flourish, adding that if she had to grow up during a pandemic, “I don’t know if I’d be so lucky.”

There’s a big need for a program that will offer opportunities to youth throughout the region, she said.

A report published by the San Diego Workforce Partnership estimated that there are about 417,000 people in the San Diego region between 16 and 24. Out of that group, 43,000 are considered “opportunity youth,” or those are not in school and not working.

County staffers within 90 days will present a full proposal that identifies green job opportunities for young people, along with ways to fund and help community organizations that support youth career readiness.

According to information attached to the supervisors’ agenda, the county will spend $500,000 on the program for fiscal year 2021-22, followed by another $500,000 for fiscal year 2022-23.

Supervisor Jim Desmond praised the program, saying it will hopefully lead to internships to help young people get their feet in the door.

During an hour-long public hearing, dozens of social justice and community advocates urged the board to fund the program.

Alexander Han, a coordinator with Sunrise Movement San Diego, said young people “are basically the backbone of our society.”

The next generation will become vital future political and business leaders, Han said, adding, “We need to be preparing them so they can get ready for this.”

Safia Haidari, an organizer for San Diego-based Youth Will, praised supervisors for approving the program, but said more still needs to be done.

“We will continue to open equitable pathways to ensure all young people who want to work have work,” Haidari said. “Youth is our future, and in order to have a growing, vibrant and sustainable San Diego, we must invest in their opportunities.”

The Youth Environmental/Recreation Corp “will not only invest in their future but prioritize the youth of today who are still suffering from COVID-19’s impacts: social isolation, job losses, health impacts and more,” Haidari added.

Earlier

REGION – The San Diego County Board of Supervisors will vote today on the creation of a Youth Environmental/Recreational Corps, intended to help young people in the region jumpstart their careers amid the pandemic-induced recession.

Supervisors Terra Lawson-Remer and Nora Vargas proposed the corps Monday, intending it to support career readiness, workforce development and mentorship. As proposed, it will provide paid employment opportunities for low-income youth through county departments, with a focus on careers in the green economy.

It would be open to any person in San Diego County between the ages of 16 and 24.

“Mentors helped me flourish as a young person, but if I were growing up in isolation during a global pandemic I don’t know if I would be so lucky,” said Lawson-Remer. “At a time when opportunity and social interaction has disappeared for many students and entry-level workers, this youth corps will help young people jump start their careers with paid positions to help them get a foothold in the green economy.”

If the corps is approved today, county staff would report back within 90 days with a full proposal that identifies green job opportunities for young people within county departments and ways to fund and help amplify community organizations that support youth career readiness.

“Now more than ever, our economic recovery efforts must address the unique challenges that lie ahead for our county’s youth and young adults,” said Vice Chair Vargas. “It is imperative that we provide accessible opportunities to get young people back on their feet, acquire skills and credentials, and create pathways into stable, sustainable careers.”

A report published by the San Diego Workforce Partnership estimated that there are about 417,000 people in the San Diego region between the ages of 16 to 24. Within this group, 43,000 are considered “opportunity youth” – young people who are not in school and not working.

The report notes the “missed social and economic opportunity in developing these individuals to become thriving members of society.”

Opportunity youth are spread across the region, with large segments in Chula Vista, Escondido, Fallbrook, Lemon Grove, National City and Vista.

Just one month of unemployment for 18- to 20-year-olds can cause a 2% decrease in lifetime income, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. The pandemic caused the sharpest unemployment spike in modern U.S. history. Young people are more likely to be employed in part-time and temporary positions – jobs more likely to be affected by this crisis.

“Young people were the first to be let go when the layoffs started happening, and I’ve heard so many stories of young people not having enough money to pay for rent or food, or not knowing where to turn,” said Safia Haidari of Youth Will, a nonprofit working to improve youth development. “In order for our region to fully recover, we must ensure that there are career opportunities and pathways to success for our youth.”

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