The San Diego County Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday on the creation of a Youth Environmental/Recreational Corps, intended to help young people in the region jumpstart their careers amid the pandemic-induced recession.
Supervisors Terra Lawson-Remer and Nora Vargas proposed the corps Monday, intending it to support career readiness, workforce development and mentorship. As proposed, it will provide paid employment opportunities for low-income youth through county departments, with a focus on careers in the green economy.
It would be open to any person in San Diego County between the ages of 16 and 24.
“Mentors helped me flourish as a young person, but if I were growing up in isolation during a global pandemic I don’t know if I would be so lucky,” said Lawson-Remer. “At a time when opportunity and social interaction has disappeared for many students and entry-level workers, this youth corps will help young people jump start their careers with paid positions to help them get a foothold in the green economy.”
If the corps is approved Tuesday, county staff would report back within 90 days with a full proposal that identifies green job opportunities for young people within county departments and ways to fund and help amplify community organizations that support youth career readiness.
“Now more than ever, our economic recovery efforts must address the unique challenges that lie ahead for our county’s youth and young adults,” said Vice Chair Vargas. “It is imperative that we provide accessible opportunities to get young people back on their feet, acquire skills and credentials, and create pathways into stable, sustainable careers.”
A report published by the San Diego Workforce Partnership estimated that there are about 417,000 people in the San Diego region between the ages of 16 to 24. Within this group, 43,000 are considered “opportunity youth” — young people who are not in school and not working.
The report notes the “missed social and economic opportunity in developing these individuals to become thriving members of society.” Opportunity youth are spread across the region, with large segments in Chula Vista, Escondido, Fallbrook, Lemon Grove, National City and Vista.
Just one month of unemployment for 18- to 20-year-olds can cause a 2% decrease in lifetime income, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. The pandemic caused the sharpest unemployment spike in modern U.S. history. Young people are more likely to be employed in part-time and temporary positions — jobs more likely to be affected by this crisis.
“Young people were the first to be let go when the layoffs started happening, and I’ve heard so many stories of young people not having enough money to pay for rent or food, or not knowing where to turn,” said Safia Haidari of Youth Will, a nonprofit working to improve youth development. “In order for our region to fully recover, we must ensure that there are career opportunities and pathways to success for our youth.”