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SF internships in manufacturing

Wed, 02 Jul 2014 15:53:00
4.5 / 5 (4 Votes)
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By Thomas Figg-Hoblyn
Adina Whitaker interned at Timbuk2, learning on-the-job manufacturing production skills. Photo courtesy of SFMade.
The nonprofit SFMade is driving a campaign to help low-income college bound high school students from diverse backgrounds in San Francisco get connected with meaningful paid internships this summer at local manufacturers so that the young workers can develop personal and professional skills that will help them succeed.
   
SFMade’s mission is to build and support a vibrant manufacturing sector in San Francisco, which sustains companies producing locally-made products, encourages entrepreneurship and innovation, and creates employment opportunities for a diverse local workforce.
    
The nonprofit created its own internship program last summer in partnership with Juma Ventures and funding from JP Morgan Chase. The pilot internship program placed 40 low-income youth in paid internships with local manufacturing businesses, making everything from chocolate to clothing to jewelry.
    
This summer, SFMade has joined forces with the United Way and its MatchbBridge program as part of San Francisco’s Summer Job+ program — which is geared toward helping young adults aged 16–24 find summer employment.
    
The goal of 2014 is 7,000 jobs.
    
MatchBridge is United Way of the Bay Area’s youth employment program, focused on placing young persons in jobs and internships that enable work-based learning. Their mission is to create pathways for them to gain early work experiences so they will become financially secure as adults.
    
The program coaches MatchBridge participants throughout the job search process, helping them gain exposure to careers and a positive future. Not only does this help them build professional skills, confidence and a stronger work ethic, it also builds motivation to complete high school and go on to college or other types of education.
   
Adina Whitaker, an intern at the local manufacturer Timbuk2 — who worked on redesigning the company’s production area and helped to create a recycling program — said she learned how to prioritize multiple projects at one time and how to communicate clearly with different members of a team. “This is the first internship where I’m not just cutting and pasting into a spreadsheet,” she said. “I learned how to be a leader.”
   
SFMade’s Manufacturing Workforce and Hiring Manager, Claire Michaels, said that she loves hearing the students speak at the end of their internships about what they've learned. She added that she can tell that they've gotten a lot out of their experiences, especially from bonding with their supervisors.
    
Many interns will work for local manufacturers who are part of the SFMade family, which has as many as 400 local companies building products in and around the City.
    
Interns assist with projects, including marketing, research, compiling reports, and production projects. Additionally, interns perform administrative tasks, and most importantly, are exposed to the career in which they are interested by first hand shadowing of a staff member and attending company meetings.
   
Michaels said she understands that young people need skills and work experience to successfully enter the workforce, and SFMade wanted to make sure that the next generation of San Francisco residents has access to quality jobs at manufacturing businesses.
   
“SFMade is excited to be partnering with the United Way — they are vital to the process of recruiting, matching, and providing job readiness training and support for the interns,” Michaels said.
   
According to SFMade’s statistics, 2013 marked a third straight year of increase to the rate of new job creation for the manufacturing sector in San Francisco — adding almost 13 percent net new jobs, as compared with 10.5 percent in 2011 and 12.5 percent in 2012.
    
There are more opportunities now for youth as local manufacturing grows.
    
Sponsoring organizations submit an intern job description, including any existing skills deemed mandatory for the position. Then candidates who submit an intern application are reviewed by MatchBridge and screened against the intern job description to determine the best fit for the intern’s interest and skill set.
    
MatchBridge sends the intern manager prescreened resumes of potential intern applicants to review. Then SFMade businesses interview their choice of potential interns and select their favorite candidate.
   
After its resounding success last year, Juma Ventures is replicating last year’s internship program in New York this summer, and SFMade has provided technical assistance.
    
After the first cohort, according to Michaels, 79% of businesses said they would consider hiring their intern — assuming they had funds to do so — and 35% actually did.
    
Michaels is a driving force behind the program, saying that she likes talking to businesses about their first jobs or internships and helping them to think of projects for their interns.
    
“I also like bringing together a diverse group of local manufacturers making everything from mattresses to kimchi and helping the young people to understand that people still make things right here in San Francisco,” Michaels said.
   
Local manufacturers who want to learn more about SFMade can visit www.sfmade.org, and young adults interested in internships can also find more information at www.sfsummerjobs.org.
 
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