OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced the start of the city’s summer jobs program on Friday.

The mayor made the announcement to about 50 business, government and non-profit executives at the Waterfront Hotel in Jack London Square on Friday morning.

“We’re focusing on quality,” Schaaf said. She’s encouraging employers to think of the program as a mentoring opportunity for youth rather than just a job.

The mayor wants students to learn vital job skills beyond technical skills, such as workplace etiquette and curiosity, which she said is a “really important professional skill.” Schaaf wants to place at least 2,000 students in internships this summer and she asked employers to think about offering internships all year long.

Special assistant to the mayor Michael Hunt said the mayor’s main message is that youth jobs and a skilled and educated workforce are critical to achieving the city’s long-term goals. The mayor has renamed the summer jobs program classrooms2Careers, and her office is working on the program with the Oakland Unified School District and the city’s Workforce Investment Board.

Schaaf told those in attendance that the single most important thing they can do is reach out to young people. In her first job, she just earned a paycheck.

“We want you to think about giving a little more,” she told the audience. She asked employers to think about making the summer job or internship a place where students build relationships, which helps people get ahead.

The mayor also told employers that kids drop out of school because they don’t see the connection between classes and work. Oakland High School graduating senior Brezhane Flores, 18, agreed.

Flores said every student thinks classes aren’t relevant to real life, but the internship she held at Rock, Paper Scissors taught her how to ask for help and how to sew and measure.

Flores has been accepted to Paul Quinn College in Dallas, Texas.

Schaaf asked employers to consider seating their interns in their office rather than in the hallway. People learn by observing others and the students can more quickly ask questions, the mayor said.

“Today’s challenge isn’t that everyone has to be a Ph.D.,” Bobby Ram, managing director of SunPower Corporation, told the audience.

Not everyone will go to college, but we can’t leave behind those that won’t go to college, according to Ram. Ram said those that don’t go to college shouldn’t have to suffer or have to be on the street.

The mayor asked employers to give the students a project to complete by the end of the summer so the students can show they achieved something.

John Bailey, executive director of Oakland’s Workforce Investment Board, used a pack of seeds and a flower as a metaphor for what employers can do this summer.

“We’ve got to invest as a business community,” Bailey said.

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