A summer job is not only a critical milestone in a youth’s career, it is a key milestone in their financial life as they earn their first paycheck.  Access to the right tools and products in this moment can help set youth on a financially healthy path.

The City and County of San Francisco believes in the importance of summer jobs programs and so in 2012, Mayor Ed Lee launched the Youth Jobs+ Initiative to connect young adults to summer employment in San Francisco’s businesses, non-profits and city departments. In 2017, this program placed nearly 7,000 youth in jobs, providing youth an opportunity to build career skills and networks.

While summer jobs programs exist in many cities, a 2014 survey by the CFE Fund found that more than half of participants in five cities did not have a bank or credit union account in which to deposit their paycheck. Youth instead turned to check cashers to cash their paychecks, taking a huge financial hit to access their hard-earned money and setting them on a costly path utilizing predatory services to meet their financial needs. A study from the Brookings Institution (2008) found that, over a lifetime, relying on check cashers instead of a low-cost or free checking account could cost a low-income worker more than $40,000 in fees.

This finding propelled the OFE, the Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families (DCYF), and MyPath to launch San Francisco’s Summer Jobs Connect in 2015, an innovative initiative to integrate access to a safe and affordable account coupled with financial capability training into youth employment programs. The non-custodial accounts at our partner credit union, San Francisco Federal Credit Union, provide youth with banking autonomy and are the only non-custodial accounts for youth under 18 years old in San Francisco.

To date, more than 2,100 youth in San Francisco have accounts at SF Federal Credit Union with a total balance of $1.25 million in their checking and savings accounts. Youth on average save $460, or more than 30% of their paycheck, to meet their saving needs to purchase school supplies, attend social activities and pay for college tuition. More importantly, youth are starting to build financially healthy habits utilizing a checking and savings account, and direct deposit. At a recent Youth Jobs+ celebration hosted by Mayor Lee, Fernando, a junior at Lowell High School, shared his valuable work experience interning at the California Academy of Sciences and his experience learning to save his money with the MyPath curriculum. By the end of the summer, he had met 100% of his savings goal.

While we see the immediate success of Summer Jobs Connect, we also know the longer-term potential of a program that provides access to safe, affordable products and financial capability training at a crucial milestone in a youth’s financial life. With the support of Cities for Financial Empowerment and Citi Foundation, Summer Jobs Connect continues to grow, with the goal of scaling the program to provide safe accounts, direct deposit, and financial capability training to all youth working in San Francisco.