DeShaun Baker, a student at Harding High School in St. Paul, has high hopes. He wants to go to college to study engineering so that he can someday open and run his own firm.
Where does a 17-year-old get such ideas? In DeShaun’s case, it was the internship he had last summer with Xcel Energy, tackling office tasks at the High Bridge plant and seeing with his own eyes how working professionals operate.
“It was a great opportunity and an experience from which I’ve grown,” he said Wednesday, as leaders from city, education and business spheres announced plans to expand St. Paul’s Right Track youth job program this summer.
St. Paul has helped teens and young people get summer jobs for years.
That program, called Youth Job Corps since 2004, is funded largely by the city and employed about 450 youth in 2013. It will continue this year.
Under the Right Track initiative, the city will recruit high school juniors or seniors from low-income households who have held at least one job and match them with positions offered by private employers.
The city also provides ongoing training to the young workers.
The program got a tryout last summer, when 21 youths, including DeShaun, got internships with 14 St. Paul companies. They worked more than 5,000 hours and earned a total of nearly $50,000.
The goal this summer is to line up 100 youths for internships, project manager Catherine Penkert said.
Mayor Chris Coleman and St. Paul school Superintendent Valeria Silva appealed to businesses to open their doors, calling youth employment a critical need that can help employers now and in the future.
“The strength of our local economy depends on our success,” said Coleman, who said he had learned valuable lessons working at the House of Wong in Roseville when he was in high school.
The job programs are open to St. Paul residents, ages 14 to 21, who are from low-income families. Applications can be made online at www.stpaul.gov/jobs from Feb. 17 through March 14.
Companies participating in Right Track must employ youths for six to 10 weeks from mid-June to mid-August for at least 15 hours per week.
Pay must be at least $7.25 an hour; the average wage last summer was $8.70.
“This is about developing a pipeline of future employees … It starts right now and pays dividends for years to come,” said Matt Kramer, president of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce.