Best Practices - Vol. IV

Mayor Skip Rimsza

Small Business Stay in School Program

In Phoenix, small businesses that employ youths for at least 200 hours receive $500 per student from the City. The City identifies a pool of youths ages 16 to 21 who are looking for part-time jobs. Employers receive a $500 voucher when they hire a youth, and redeem it after he or she has worked the required 200 hours.

Through the Small Business Stay In School Program, companies with fewer than 100 employees that want to help area youths but find it expensive can participate. The $500 helps defray businesses' costs of training students in basic skills, such as getting to work on time, dressing appropriately and telephone etiquette. Small businesses don't have a lot of time or personnel to do this, where larger businesses can afford to do so.

During the pilot year the Human Services Department held focus groups with member firms to develop ways to streamline the program and make it less burdensome for companies when they join. Under the program, companies call the Human Services Department and ask to participate. The City starts the job matching process with the help of the school district. City officials ask employers what types of workers they need and then pull candidates from the pool of youths looking for jobs. For positions requiring skills such as typing and computer familiarity, the school will contact vocational education or technical teachers to help find a student who fits the profile.

The company then interviews the candidates, calls the Department when it picks one, and receives a voucher from the City. When the youth completes the 200 hours, the company sends in copies of payroll documentation and receives a check from the City in two to four weeks.

In the summer of 1995, the Phoenix City Council allocated $250,000 of General Purpose funds for the pilot program, fearing Congress would eliminate the federal Job Training Partnership Act programs. In 1995 approximately 230 youths obtained jobs in 190 small businesses. In 1996 and 1997 the City Council approved $700,000 for the Summer Youth Employment/Small Business Stay In School Program. In 1996, approximately 535 youth obtained jobs in 304 small businesses.

The school district works with high school guidance counselors and co-op coordinators who know of students looking for part-time work. Working helps students realize how relevant academics are, shapes their career goals and exposes them to role models. A lot of learning takes place in several different environments.

Contact: Phoenix Human Services Department, (602) 262-6776

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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