State official proposes paid student intern program

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — As part of a summit focused on preparing students for the future, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond has called for the development of a statewide paid internship program to help teens and young adults work and learn about career pathways.

A two-day summit held at the California Department of Education headquarters in Sacramento and broadcast online was aimed at connecting partners such as school districts, workforce agencies, public housing agencies and government agencies, among others, to develop the internship program and help prevent youth from engaging in crime, according to Thurmond’s office.

The paid internship program will also be designed to connect participants with career advisers to “ensure they have a secure role in the global economy in the years ahead.”

During a news conference to begin the summit Oct. 10, Thurmond said there are thousands of students who are homeless across the state and many more who are on their own, stressing that students are in need of housing, mental health support and career advice.

“That’s what this summit is about — building together with partners from every sector,” Thurmond said. “We will be designing today for the next hour or two, a strategy for how to launch a statewide youth strategy for paid internships.”

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass joined the news conference virtually from City Hall. She noted that Los Angeles, like other California cities, has become expensive to live in.

Bass added that while for some individuals, who come from middle- and upper-class families that may support them, a long-term unpaid internship is feasible, but for the majority of young people, that’s not the reality.

“I have had interns with me for the last 20 to 30 years as I’ve done this type of work,” Bass said. “There’s always been interns, but because I have focused on kids from challenging circumstances, we’ve always needed to provide some financial support.”

Bass highlighted $53 million the city received from CalVolunteers, a state office aimed at bolstering volunteering and civic action. The $53 million will help connect 4,000 young people to jobs and provide them training by next May 1. More than 1,300 young people participated in the CalVolunteers-funded programs, such as Angelenos Corps and Student 2 Student, she said.

Internships can often be a “life-changing experience” for young people, exposing them to careers that might not be accessible in their communities, Bass said.

According to Thurmond’s office, the goal of the summit was to explore ways to design paid training and career coaching programs and examine other programs that may help, such as mentoring, mental health and housing programs. The programs will be designed to connect for youth ages 13 to 24.

The summit will focus on how to launch programs and pilots in Oakland as a start and examine ways to expand to other cities such as San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno, Los Angeles and San Diego.

In 2022, Thurmond sponsored Assembly Bill 2088 to fund paid internships for youth and he has signaled that he will support a similar measure in the 2024 legislative cycle. Thurmond and partners will be contacting foundations, corporations, donors, nonprofits and businesses to help fund pilot programs until a legislative allocation can be pursued in 2024.