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San Francisco officials hoping to improve public employment programs

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GETTY IMAGES, S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTOS
  • Getty Images, S.F. Examiner File Photos

San Francisco’s publicly funded employment programs remain “too fragmented” and pressure is mounting to make improvements as the technology industry booms and the local economy improves.

The City spends tens of millions of dollars annually on employment programs, but inefficiencies and lack of job placements have plagued the effort. These employment programs are seen as crucial efforts to help those struggling as housing prices and other cost-of-living expenses increase in San Francisco.

Last week, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu requested an update to a scathing 2007 audit on the employment programs that found few people were landing jobs and there was little tracking of outcomes.

While there has been “significant progress” since the audit, Chiu said nonprofit workers say the programs remain “too fragmented” by being spread across 15 city departments.

In an April 9 letter requesting Budget Analyst Harvey Rose update the audit, Chiu wrote, “There has been relatively little coordination and no standard performance outcomes across many of the departments. Further, there has been inadequate Citywide-level information about total funding, staffing levels, and contract data.”

Among those lobbying for change is a group of 10 nonprofits organized by Gail Gillman, executive director of the Community Housing Partnership. Gillman said “clear pathways” from training to job placement are lacking. While job placement for the health care industry is successful, she said, “We haven’t done very well in the other sectors.”

The group has made recommendations to Mayor Ed Lee and the board, such as establishing a jobs council modeled after the Chicago Jobs Council, which formed in 1981 with nonprofits and business leaders.

Meanwhile, Supervisor John Avalos is exploring broadening The City’s existing local-hire mandate for public construction jobs to other industries through the First Source program. This program requires that companies make a good-faith effort to hire locals if they do business with The City. Advocates such as Joshua Arce, executive director of the nonprofit Brightline Defense Project, are behind that approach.

“The updated audit will set the stage for the long-overdue push to finally mandate The City’s local hiring policy for nonconstruction jobs, which is still stuck in the world of good faith,” Arce said. The audit had found that while there were more than 20,000 contractors doing business with The City, only 128 posted nonconstruction jobs available for low-income workers.

An audit update from Rose is expected in the coming weeks. The effort also comes as the mayor is working on a proposed budget, which he must submit by June 3 to the Board of Supervisors for review and adoption. Gillman said the coalition also is asking for increased investment in employment programs, saying federal funding for these services has declined.  

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com