In April 2016, we launched the Hire Houston Youth (HHY) program through our Office of Education. It is the first city-wide, collective impact postsecondary and workforce effort bringing together dozens of unique, outstanding partners from our diverse city. Youth, age 16–24, are offered seven-weeks paid summer jobs and internships at the City of Houston, the public, private, and philanthropic sectors. HHY serves as the facilitator to connect youth to local jobs where they are empowered with an “earn and learn” opportunity in Houston’s dynamic economy.
In 2016, HHY increased its reach from 450 youth to 1,135; in 2017, HHY offered over 5,000 job opportunities; and our biggest year to date, came in 2019 with over 11,500 jobs! In 2020, the impact of COVID-19 devastated summer youth employment programs around the Nation.
Our hard-earned gains were compromised by the pandemic, but we persevered and placed over 1,800+ youth into virtual/digital, community health, and COVID-19 related jobs and internships. We were one of the only cities in the country to actively support a summer youth employment program.
Research has shown that over the past forty years, Houston dramatically transformed from a blue-collar, industrial-era, resource-based economy to an international, high-tech, knowledge-based economy. This revolutionary transformation demands that our employees attain more education, training and technical skills, but it has proven difficult for the current system to keep up with the dramatic changes.
Over 70 percent of our residents aged 19 or younger is Latino or African American, and the educational attainment of African Americans and Latinos demonstrates a disturbing inequity. Only 20 percent of African American adults and 17 percent of Latinos have college degrees. Over a fifth of all African Americans and more than a fourth of all U.S. born Latinos lack high school diplomas. This is alarming and unacceptable!
Houston’s future is dependent on the educational success of our local youth. There is no greater predictor to the health and wellbeing of our city than the educational level of our population. The City of Houston and its many partners recognize the need for a collective, community-driven solution to this complex problem. Our youth deserve educational opportunities that connect them to the local workforce and career exploration, so they can make informed choices about their future career path in Houston’s dynamic economy.