Jefferson Award Winner Finds Work For Teenagers

(KPIX 5) — While the national jobless rate holds steady at 5%, unemployment is three times as high among teenagers. But a South Bay man is expanding job opportunities for young people by finding out what businesses need, and preparing young people to do the job well.

John Hogan had retired from 24 years in the mortgage industry, and was working on his MBA a few years ago, when some labor statistics spurred him to action:

“Only 27% of youth ages 16 to 19 are working,” he reported. The youth employment rate was at a 64-year low.”

So Hogan founded TeenForce in 2010, a social enterprise that matches entry-level jobs with young people aged 14 to 24. Half of them are foster youth.

“They don’t have the typical supports to help them get that first foot in the door for working,” he explained.

As the CEO of TeenForce, Hogan works with about 50 Santa Clara County businesses from technology and health care, to retail and food service. He says many of them had not hired young people until he approached them.

“We step in and say, ‘Look, if we can find the right youth with the right schedule who is prepared, then would you be willing to interview them?'”

In the last five years, Hogan has helped 550 young people find jobs all over Santa Clara County.

College student Theresa Monzon is a full-time receptionist for the Outreach paratransit program, a job she landed through TeenForce.

“I like helping people,” Monzon said. “Right here, I get a chance to do that.”

Since she aged out of foster care, Monzon has been on her own.

“It means a lot. It’s my form of income,” she explained.

Outreach supervisor Juan Portillo says employers like him benefit as well, because TeenForce prepares the young workers for the job.

“They’ll come in very trained, motivated, always smiling, always try to do more,” Portillo said.

Just like Hogan. In fact, he launched a new STEM program last year for high school foster youth in Santa Clara County, funded mostly by tech giants Symantec and Google. The teenagers get paid summer internships, after receiving training in robotics and coding.

So for building up valuable work opportunities for young people in Santa Clara County, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to John Hogan.

Businesses in Santa Clara County wanting to offer employment or internships to disadvantaged youth or foster youth can contact TeenForce.