Tacoma pilot program links students to paid summer jobs, graduation credits

The City of Tacoma and Tacoma Public Schools have teamed up to create a summer pilot project giving 54 local students, who would not otherwise have had the opportunity, the chance to participate in paid part-time summer jobs while earning graduation credits. This pilot project is being funded with an allocation of $150,000 in one-time funds dedicated for crime prevention activities within the City of Tacoma’s Neighborhood and Community Services Special Revenue Fund.

“The City Council understands that we have a role in supporting our students and providing them with opportunities to gain work experience and training so they can become productive adults who contribute positively to our communities,” said Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland. “This is a true community collaboration, and I am sincerely grateful to the companies and organizations who stepped forward to help our students. I hope this is just the beginning of this program, and we can expand it next summer with more students and more employers.”

In setting priorities for its 2013 Strategic Policy, Tacoma City Council identified that the City of Tacoma should strengthen and support human services, public education and diverse higher learning opportunities in Tacoma. Additionally, the adopted 2010-2012 Human Services Strategic Plan included a goal to address barriers to academic success at all grade levels, and to allow children to succeed in school and graduate ready to continue education or obtain employment.

Nineteen local employers and community partners are participating in this summer’s pilot project, in a push to provide meaningful work experience and mentoring to enhance the students’ opportunity for ongoing academic and career success. REACH and Tacoma Community House will act as the program administrators, handling employment paperwork and payroll issues.

“The generous partnership spearheaded by the City of Tacoma provides our students with an unprecedented combination of relevant workplace learning experiences, and the credits they desperately need to get back on track to graduate,” said Tacoma Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Josh Garcia.

Research has identified that two significant barriers to young adult success are on-time high school graduation and the ability to obtain employment, partially due to a lack of work experience. It has also been determined that youth employment and development programs are effective in reducing problematic behavior in young adults. And, according to the Justice Policy Institute, youth unemployment is tied to youth referrals to the juvenile justice system.

Though there are a number of youth employment programs offered in Tacoma, discontinuation of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act summer youth employment funding has limited the number of employment opportunities for youth, according to City of Tacoma officials.

“The City of Tacoma researched a number of model communities around the country that have partnered with community agencies to facilitate summer employment programs by combining public and private funds,” said Assistant City Manager Tansy Hayward, who also oversees the City of Tacoma’s Neighborhood and Community Services Department. “While the planning of a comprehensive public and privately-funded program will take more time to develop, the City of Tacoma identified this opportunity within existing funding and with existing partners to initiate this small pilot for the summer of 2013 with the ability to expand in future years.”

Tacoma Mayor Strickland spoke to 54 local students on Monday who were chosen for the city's youth summer job pilot program. (PHOTO COURTESY CITY OF TACOMA)