This month, I am launching the 5th year of one of my signature programs, Hire Houston Youth (HHY). By working with the private sector and nonprofit community, HHY provides more access to employment opportunities for young people ages 16-24. Houston is a city of opportunity. If we are going to build a strong, vibrant workforce, we must invest in our youth, and we must do it now.
Since becoming mayor, I have steadily grown the Hire Houston Youth program. Before I came into office, the City of Houston offered 450 summer jobs, but I knew that we could do better. In 2016, we increased the number of jobs to over 1,100. Each year, there has been a steady increase from 1,100 to 5,000 to 7,500. In 2019, I set an ambitious goal of 10,000 job opportunities. We exceeded this goal and provided access to over 11,400 jobs. Our success comes from resounding support and collaboration from the public and private sectors. The overwhelming majority of jobs come from the private sector and nonprofit community, while fewer than 500 positions are in local government. HHY’s goal is to increase our youth’s access to Houston’s dynamic economy and careers and provide them with a transformative “earn and learn” experience.
In 2020, I initially challenged my staff and community partners to provide 15,000 jobs, internships, and apprenticeship opportunities, but I could not stop thinking about how Houston has approximately 20,000 gang members. If we want a safe city, we must embrace young people before negative influences steer them in the wrong direction, and we must put the gangs out of business. Therefore, I have raised the bar to 20,000 jobs for 2020. This will be a transformational year for HHY as we further impact the lives of our youth and continue to build Houston’s future workforce.
HHY connects young people to mentors, job training, and local resources and support. Working in various positions, young people will meet with career coaches to learn how to complete a successful interview, prepare a resume, make a great first impression, show up to work on time, and complete work responsibilities. The program puts them on a track to succeed in a competitive work environment and gain real world experience.
They also have a chance to earn, and for some young people, this is the only money they will have. Some will use it for personal expenses, to help their parents, or to pitch in with household expenses, while others will save for future college or day-to-day living expenses. Regardless of how their money is spent, invested, or saved, we are empowering youth with earnings, financial literacy, and participation in the economy.
At a recent Hire Houston Youth kick-off event, former intern Luis Moreno, a University of Houston student, explained why the program is important to him. Moreno grew up in Hiram Clark, the son of immigrants from Mexico. “The Hire Houston Youth program provided an opportunity to learn new skills and better prepare for my future in the workforce,” said Moreno.
“Not a lot of young people have access to job training. I’m very grateful to Mayor Turner, and I want to encourage others to apply for the positions this year.”
HHY ambassadors like Moreno are the reason I am passionate about building this program. I see how it transforms their lives by also building their social capital and emotional skills. I am asking local businesses and nonprofit groups to hire youth for the summer and to add year-round opportunities as well.
This program would not be successful without the support of Workforce Solutions, the Greater Houston Partnership, The Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the McDonald’s Owners and Operators Association, United Way, National League of Cities, LinkedIn, Strada Education Network, JP Morgan Chase Foundation, NRG Reliant Charitable Foundation, Cities for Financial Empowerment, the City of Houston’s Human Resources Department, the Mayor’s Office of Education, and so many others. I also want to thank and acknowledge companies like:
• McDonald’s committing to 5,000 hires for 2020.
• HEB for hiring 2,000 or more youth every summer since being a part of the program.
• American Pools for hiring hundreds of life guards to work at local pools last summer.
• Student Conservation Association for hiring youth to work in Green Careers at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies.
Starting now, employers and youth can visit www.HireHoustonYouth.org to get started. Companies can also donate to the Hire Houston Youth Foundation at www.hirehoustonyouth.org/donate. You can also post your jobs at www.hirehoustonyouth.org/employer.
According to the Greater Houston Partnership, 35-40 percent of the jobs in Houston do not require a college degree, but they do require skills and training beyond a high school level.
The GHP is working with my administration to build a strong regional economy and enhance the
quality of life and opportunity for all young people by building pathways to success.
The Hire Houston Youth application process opens on February 10, 2020. Please visit www.hirehoustonyouth.org/youth.
The future of our young people and Houston’s workforce is at stake.
I hope you join me to increase access to quality ‘earning and learning’ opportunities for all Houston youth.