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TeenForce, which connects youths with jobs, plans to ramp up in 2015

Silicon Valley Business Journal, 25 November 2014 - TeenForce, one of the Silicon Valley nonprofits seeking to connect companies with young workers that otherwise might not get a look, is elevating its ambitions going into 2015.

The social enterprise founded by retired mortgage executive John Hogan almost five years ago specializes in finding jobs for young people who have been in the foster care system. Hogan based the nonprofit's business model on the staffing industry, seeking to ensure that companies get matched with candidates that fill a legitimate business needs.

Hogan's group has helped more than 400 young people earn over $1.5 million in pay since its founding. In this conversation, edited for length and clarity, he lays out TeenForce's vision for 2015.

What does TeenForce do?

We're a social enterprise focused on youth employment. We specialize in young people 16 to 24, most from disadvantaged backgrounds, and we're preparing them for the workforce. Our business model is based on the for-profit staffing agency model. That way we partner with employers to fill real staffing needs.

How do companies connect with the kids you are working with?

Our strongest employer development strategy has been networking through the Chamber of Commerce. We set a strategy with the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce in 2013 and their board endorsed a program to generate 100 jobs among members — and that year we got to 94 jobs. We're up to 150 now through those relationships.

What role does TeenForce play once it connects a young person with a job opportunity?

By functioning as a staffing agency for youth, we take care of all the administrative work for an employer. So we do the things a traditional staffing agency does — recruiting, screening, payroll. Then our staffing specialists stay in contact with the youth and the employer to make sure the placement is working out. Long term, hopefully, a conversion takes place and the young person becomes a direct hire on employer's payroll.

How many successful conversions like that does TeenForce have?

Probably in the range of 80. Because they're, young that's not always the goal. Some are strictly temp from the outset. As you can imagine a young person could go through two or three entry-level laddering jobs, say starting at Goodwill, then Orchard Supply, then on to some experience in office environment.

What's the plan for 2015?

In July of 2014, we opened two new sites — one that serves East Palo Alto and Bel Haven, and one in Morgan Hill focused on South County youth. We want to ramp those two branches up, which will prove we can replicate our model. Want to roll out branches throughout Bay Area. Another thing for 2015 is executing on our foster youth STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program, and we launch our first cohort in January.

Tell us more about the STEM initiative.

We launched the idea at the Clinton Global Initiative by making a commitment to provide a paid STEM internship to 100 percent of Santa Clara County foster youth while they're in high school. The tech community is really embracing it, and Symantec is providing funding. Once they complete the training, the youth will get paid internships with tech companies.


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