By Bret Piatt
Nov 14, 2017
This past Saturday, November 11, episode 59 of Cyber Talk Radio hit the air on 1200 WOAI and iHeartRadio streaming. I was joined by Nikki McNish, education initiatives program manager at SA Works, and Shauna Goodman, director of employer engagement at SA Works. In case you are not familiar, SA Works is San Antonio’s labor force development agency.
In the first half of the show, Shauna and Nikki began by talking about their journeys to SA Works. Shauna explained how her experiences with her own children were pivotal for her and Nikki discussed how she was able to tie together her experiences teaching to the corporate world.
Shauna and Nikki then discussed the changing legal environment in San Antonio and Texas more generally with the Texas legislature introducing a mandate for schools to work to get 13-14 year-olds internships in industry through House Bill 5. This in turn led directly to the establishment of SA Works thanks to a donation from Charles Butt.
We then discussed SA Works’ Job Shadow day which happened for the first time in February and again last month. Shauna and Nikki explained that while it is called a job shadow scheme it does not involve “shadowing.” Instead companies design a half-day of programing for kids talking about opportunities in their industries and how to access them.
Nikki and Shauna then explained how this is important in the context of San Antonio’s labor force in particular. Although there is a very low unemployment rate, most workers lack the skills to move up into the better paying opportunities that exist in technology. More widely given the forecasts for job creation, technology is colliding with all industries and this means all young people need exposure to technology. Beyond the shadow scheme, Nikki and Shauna explained the internship program SA Works has set up, which functions similarly to match.com. It matches high schoolers’ interests and skills with employers’ capacity and need. At the same time, the program provides training in job applications for young people with interview prep, resume writing assistance and more giving San Antonio high schoolers an opportunity to learn more about the world of work and helping them better navigate it in the future.
In the second half, we began with my Chief of Staff Zac Levin explaining the experience of hosting a Job Shadow Day from the employer’s perspective and talking about the positive impact it had here at Jungle Disk .
Nikki and Shauna then delve deeper into programing in the city. They walk us through the career path which kids are now exposed to. This starts at 8th grade when kids learn through video games about career paths available in technology and beyond. It now continues with internships throughout high school. There is no industry and no employer that SA Works will not approach to try to find opportunities for San Antonio high schoolers. Nikki then showed us how this dedication applies to the high schoolers themselves with one student last year writing to Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and asking for internships at the County, following which the county moved to offer 16 internships to high schoolers.
The next job shadow day is February 2, 2018. Nikki and Shauna are excited to hit the streets and talk to San Antonio businesses large and small in all industries to see how they can help high schools find opportunities for their students, bridging the gap between the classroom and the workplace.
To learn more, listen to the full episode replay available here!
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