Every year, SFMade partners with local non-profits to place San Francisco and San Jose youth in paid internships with manufacturers. Known as YouthMade, the program began in 2014 as part of SFMade’s mission to expose youth to potential careers in manufacturing and to prepare the workforce of the future. A sister program, called Inside Manufacturing, exposes high school students to manufacturing through tours, workshops, and speaking events.

Through these programs more than 1,200 youth have been exposed to careers in the manufacturing industry and 80 businesses have benefited from the extra help they provide.

“Having a free intern really does help the business fill a gap that otherwise a small business like mine might not be able to afford,” said Ounce Cookies owner Charlotte Kwon, who hosted an intern last summer.

Last year, the pandemic forced SFMade, its youth workforce partners – JVS, Enterprise for Youth, and San Jose Works — and participating manufacturers to rethink the structure of the summer internships they had planned. Several companies adjusted and offered jobs that could be done from anywhere, such as social media promotion and administrative work. Others, such as bakeries and coffee roasters, continued with on-site internships (for youth 18 and older) with safety protocols in place.

“Everyone worked together to make the program viable,” said George Colón, SFMade’s Workforce & Youth Program Manager.  “We were able to do virtual internships and make it work.”

The remote internships were actually quite successful and will be offered again this summer, along with a handful of on-site internships.

SFMade and MFG:SJ are looking to recruit 12 to 15 additional businesses in San Francisco and 10 businesses to host remote interns starting in June:

Key benefits of hosting an intern include:

  • SFMade and our workforce partners focus on creating the best possible match between intern and business.
  • Companies benefit by having an intern for six weeks at no cost (interns are paid by our youth workforce partners).
  • The youth interns benefit by getting real work experience and a paycheck.

Interested businesses should contact us for more information:

The majority of the interns in San Francisco are SFUSD high school students who participate in youth development programs with JVS and Enterprise for Youth. In San Jose, they youth come to us via San Jose Works. In preparation for the internships, the youth learn about resume writing and interviewing, and are asked to identify the types of careers they are interested in exploring. A job coach supports them throughout the internship.

SFMade recruits manufacturers to participate in the program and works closely with our youth workforce partners to match the businesses with interns whose interests align with their needs. In the past, interns have done everything from baking to social media promotion to production and logistics.

Last summer, Borbón Skincare owner Carmen Milagro was in need of a digital media intern who could take her new company’s online presence to the next level. She was excited to participate in the summer internship program not only to get help in an area that she lacked experience in, but also because she loved the idea of giving a young person their first break.

Many of the youth interns face barriers to employment, such as being from low-income families and the first in their family to be on a college track, or they may have a learning difference.

“Those are things that we look at when we are offering young people internships – we want to connect people who don’t always have access to opportunities to opportunities,” said Meghan Smith-Chang, Senior Program Director at Enterprise for Youth.

“You need experience to get that first real job and I wanted to give someone that opportunity,” said Milagro. “I feel like it’s our responsibility to help. But more than that it’s an honor.”

Milagro drafted a job description and then had a conversation with Smith-Chang to provide detailed qualifications specific to her business.

“They could not have found a better intern for me,” said Milagro, who was matched with 16-year-old Nina.

In their first Zoom session, Milagro spent time getting to know Nina and explaining what her goals were for the company and for the internship.

“We also talked about what the goals were for her,” said Milagro. “I wanted her to know that if another interest developed while we were working together, I would be flexible.”

Milagro established clear expectations for the six-week program, with a focus on a specific number of Instagram posts to promote Borbón products. Each week, Carmen and Nina met on Zoom and were in communication regularly via text and email.

“We were in constant communication just as if we were working in person,” said Milagro. “I saw tremendous growth. By the time we finished the internship she was more polished, confident, more able to vocalize what she thought.”

Milagro also had the support of Smith-Chang and the SFMade team should any questions or issues arise during the course of the internship. Based on that positive experience, Milagro says she plans to host another intern this summer.

Charlotte Kwon, owner of Ounce Cookies, also had a great experience last summer with her youth intern.

“When I saw the email from SFMade about the program, it stood out as something uplifting because it would benefit both the manufacturers and the youth interns,” said Kwon. “I thought it was really admirable that all these young people wanted to work during a pandemic. And to be honest I can always use the help.”

Kwon was matched with Ivan, an 18-year-old JVS intern who was interested in the culinary arts. Because Ounce is considered an essential business, and Ivan was 18, he was able to be on site. He worked three days a week for a total of 15 hours for six weeks.

“Having Ivan as my intern was awesome,” said Kwon. “He was really curious — so excited about food and a breath of fresh air in the midst of the pandemic. I admired his optimism, positive energy, and laser-focused goal of working, learning, and charging forward.”

Each week Kwon would set a goal, one that would allow Ivan to learn a new technical skill. Through observation and verbal instructions, Ivan learned to execute recipes end to end on his own. He made and frosted cookies, created fillings, and operated the kitchen equipment. He even packaged cookies, boxed them up and labeled them so they could be delivered to customers.

Every two weeks Kwon would use an online form to provide feedback about Ivan to JVS and SFMade. Interns also submitted feedback. If any issues arose, the host companies could lean on SFMade and JVS staff for support.

“Juliana and George were very organized and gave us, the manufacturers who were hosting interns, tools to provide performance evaluation and feedback,” said Kwon.

“When the student is participating with an SFMade member business, George and the team are a great resource for the companies,” said Juliana Cabrera Peña, Coordinator of High School and Bridge Programs at JVS. “There is constant communication and feedback not only from the supervisor but also from the intern so that all parties are satisfied.”

Kwon said she appreciated that support and the professional way the internships were conducted.

As a one-woman show, she also appreciated how talented, efficient, and motivated her intern Ivan was, which allowed her to go home earlier than usual on some days.

“For me it was a good wake-up call,” Kwon said. “It allowed me to see the value of hiring team members and training them so I can focus more on growing the business and not so much on doing everything myself,” she said.