Berlin Startup Tour, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from Heisenberg Media’s photostream

Pittsburgh’s Summer Youth Employment Program provides paid job opportunities for several hundred Pittsburgh youth each year. The program gives kids an opportunity to gain some real-world work experience, make a bit of money, and make connections with employers and other youth. The program is a joint venture of the City of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Foundation, and corporate sponsors and allows kids between the ages of 14 and 21 to apply to participate. The Summer Youth Employment Program is a fantastic partnership and something that we absolutely must continue to support. However, I would like to bring in a more diverse set of site partners and allow kids to enter a broader field of summer jobs that will better prepare them for the kinds of jobs that are available in our region. We must expand the program to provide kids exposure to jobs in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.

1. Growing STEMs

As Mayor, I will expand the Pittsburgh Summer Youth Employment Program to create the Growing STEMs program, a subset of the PSYEP that will provide opportunities to kids interested in the high-tech jobs of the future. We have great partners and job sites for PSYEP right now but they are mostly in outdoor work, nonprofit organizations, and the City of Pittsburgh itself. We offer few if any opportunities for kids to spend the summer working in one of our hospitals, at one of our banks, at one of the tech startup firms, or at a major employer like Google. These are the kinds of partnerships we need to start building to give our kids the opportunity to dream big. Give a kid from a low- to moderate-income neighborhood the chance to work in a hospital and she can dream of becoming a doctor. Give a kid the chance to work in a bank and he can dream of becoming a banker. We need to look beyond just having kids cut grass in our parks or answer phones at a city office.

Studies have shown that the more you can expose high school aged kids to professional job opportunities, the more likely they are to pursue those opportunities in their own lives. If we can give our kids the opportunity to put a summer job at Google on their resumes while they’re in high school new roads will open up to them. We have such amazing STEM resources here in Pittsburgh and we have to start showing our kids that these jobs and these opportunities are here for them. The best way to do that is to put them in these jobs and hand them a paycheck every summer.

And the more STEM firms we can bring into the PSYEP fold, the more we can ask them to be financially supportive of the program and be able to offer many more kids the opportunity to participate.