Memorial Day weekend is upon us, and in addition to remembering and honoring those who've died in war, it means road trips, backyard barbecues, baseball games and more. It’s also the unofficial start of summer, and for some teens and young adults comes the hope – or dread – of finding a summer job.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, where the unemployment rate is 17 percent for people between the ages of 16 and 24, the jobs are looking for them.
This public service announcement is airing on local radio stations: "Wanna update your status? Get a summer job today! Thousands of jobs available for 16? to 24-year-olds at places like Old Navy, Bank of America and more. Text 50-555 now for details." It's part of a city goal of finding 4000 public sector and 2000 private sector summer jobs and internships for young folks this summer.
Eighteen-year-old Tehmas Shaikh was one of those summer interns last year right after graduating from high school. He was born in Pakistan, and came here with his family when he was four. He remembers his first thoughts when his parents told him to find work for the summer.
Tehmas says finding this job though MatchBridge changed his life.
"I have no experience," he recalls telling them. "How am I supposed to get a job, you know?"
Shaikh was interviewed by Virginia Mead, office manager at the Bohan Company. She's hired as many as seven interns at a time for this fairly small office that serves apartment building owners and homeowners associations. She says she looks for interns who are good listeners.
"Being teachable is a unique quality," she explains, "and [Shaikh] was totally in the moment. He is right there listening and realizing the opportunity that he has. It’s not just a place that he’s parked himself."
This week, about a year after last summer's internship ended, Tehmas Shaikh is parked here, wearing a crisp white shirt sitting in his own cubicle.
"I take bank statements," Skaikh explains. "I go to our accounting software. I reconcile the banks. This is Accounting 101, so I’m learning as I’m going."
The day his internship here ended last year, the Bohan Company offered Shaikh a job.
"Immediately I said, you know, I’m going to take this opportunity," he recalls. "I’m gonna see what it offers me. I get to work on the Embarcadero, you know, suit up a little bit, have a little cubicle. That’s not bad for an 18?year?old. C’mon!"
The best kinds of summer jobs can put young people in touch with adults who mentor them, people like Virginia Meade.
"I told him no matter if you want to be an accountant or not, whatever you learn here will be a basis for where you go next," Meade says. "So, take it seriously."
This program – it's called Summer Jobs Plus – is a part of the Obama Administration's goal of reaching out to young people from low?income families and underserved communities. Here it's a partnership between the city of San Francisco and United Way of the Bay Area. Matt Poland runs the private sector portion of it. Part of his job is making sure the young people are what he calls "work ready" – a trait he says is somewhat subjective and nuanced.
"But some of the basics are, have a resume that is presentable," he explains, "being able to answer interview questions, being able to show interest and motivation to work, knowing how to dress, how to interact in an interview. And filling out a job application online, which can be tricky."
All these summer jobs pay either the minimum wage of $10.55 or a stipend.
"We do make sure we have vetted the employer, talked to them a little bit about what jobs they are offering," Poland explains. "We are selective in trying to find opportunities that the young people can learn from."
This being San Francisco, there are some unusual opportunities – like ones with the organization putting on this year's America's Cup. Some of the more popular jobs, Poland says, are ones with companies young people know: Starbucks, NikeTown, Ghirardelli and Airbnb.
A job board at the MatchBridge office showing various San Francisco employers hiring youth through the program.
"The intent of Summer Jobs Plus is really to build a system that better aligns workforce and education," says Poland. "So, reinforcing their education with learning on the job so they understand their education, and also knowing that education is vital to getting a job and getting a self-sustaining wage and that sort of thing."
And summer internships can also be a gateway into something better. Just ask Tehmas Shaikh.
"[My internship]basically inspired me, you know, to go viral," Shaikh says. "I have the opportunity to become something, you know? It opened doors for me, basically, you know?"
Tehmas is now a freshman at San Francisco State, majoring in computer engineering with a minor in accounting.