Hire L.A.’s Youth — Building a New, Equitable Workforce

Source: Getty images.

By Carolyn Hull

What would it be like if I became a teacher? A scientist? A firefighter? What if I worked in tech or the business world? Or behind the scenes on a movie or television set? Big dreams and career questions like these loom large for young Angelenos. The City of Los Angeles’ Hire LA’s Youth program helps them answer these questions and start down the paths to the careers of their dreams.

Under the leadership of Mayor Eric Garcetti, Hire LA’s Youth has provided more than 20,000 paid jobs and internships — real-life, in-person and/or virtual work experiences that help youth ages 14 to 24 prepare to become lifelong earners. The program operates year-round, supporting youth so they can learn about potential careers while they earn an income.

The careers they explore in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors are as diverse as the communities that make up our city. Los Angeles may be best known for making movies, but our city is also home to a wide array of other industries, including Aeronautics, Biosciences, Advanced Transportation and Clean Tech, Food Manufacturing, Trade and Logistics, and a growing tech sector in Silicon Beach. Yet many young Angelenos, especially those in neighborhoods with fewer job opportunities, have not been exposed to these fields.

Meaningful early employment can be life-changing for any young person, especially those who have been shut out of the job market. Youth in LA’s BIPOC communities, who make up the majority of Hire LA’s Youth participants, often face systemic barriers that separate them from opportunities to secure employment and build careers. Subsidized employment programs reduce those barriers by putting young people directly to work, so more young Angelenos can access the exciting careers our city has to offer.

Following the racial justice demonstrations in summer 2020, companies in Los Angeles and nationwide announced commitments to fight systemic racism. Some launched diversity and inclusion initiatives to increase employment opportunities for people of color. By working with equity-focused youth employment programs like Hire LA’s Youth, employers can show that their diversity and inclusion pledges are genuine.

However, a handful of corporate efforts will not create equity in the workforce — it takes all of us.

We know from experience that subsidized employment works. Decades of research by Mathematica, Heartland Alliance, MDRC, and the Georgetown Center for Poverty and Inequality back up this approach. In fact, subsidized employment is the only strategy proven to get people to work at the speed necessary for our city’s economic recovery.

Yet like many similar programs across the country, Hire LA’s Youth consistently receives more job applications than job openings. If we really want an equitable economic recovery and a thriving workforce that reflects the talent and diversity of this generation, we need Congress to authorize funding to expand subsidized employment programs for youth.

This past summer, several Hire LA’s Youth participants worked as interns for local and state politicians. So, Congress, will you support subsidized youth employment programs that could open the door for young people to be like to be you someday?

Carolyn Hull is the General Manager for the City of LA’s Economic & Workforce Development Department.