As Ready to Work trains residents for in-demand careers, the taxpayer-funded program is expanding its efforts to get those graduates hired through a new internship program.

The goal is to lower barriers for employers, so they’ll be more willing to take chances on prospective workers who they might otherwise overlook, such as older workers, those without experience or who have a criminal record.

CPS Energy, USAA, Credit Human and the City of San Antonio have signed on to the pilot effort. Eligible graduates will be placed in six-week internships with these organizations, with the city’s Workforce Development Office (WDO), covering the interns’ wages.

At the end of the six weeks, if the intern is hired full time, employers will repay
the department, and those funds will be used to extend the program to additional participants.

Dubbed Pay It Forward, the program is a collaboration between the workforce office and Social Finance, a national finance and advisory nonprofit that works with public sector partners like cities to help create programs like Pay It Forward.

For San Antonio, Social Finance designed the internship program, identified employers and will offer oversight for at least the first couple cohorts of interns.

Matt Latimer, director of Social Finance’s impact advisory practice, said the program should be a win-win for employers and participants. Employers get a low-barrier opportunity to give potential employees a test run — Tri-Starr Talent, a local staffing agency, will be the employer of record for the interns, reducing the cost and risk for employers.

Interns can get hired after six weeks — and even those who aren’t ultimately hired, Latimer said, will exit the program with six weeks of on-the-job training and employment experience.

Demand for labor in San Antonio remains high — the city had over 20,000 job openings posted in September, according to the WDO. The talent shortage is particularly acute for businesses in industries such as finance, health care, information technology and the skilled trades.

Ready to Work, which subsidizes training and education programs to help residents move into higher paid, in-demand industries, is looking for new ways to get people enrolled and make sure they’re hired once they complete that training.

There are currently more than 5,000 people enrolled in training programs, and as they complete those programs, they’ll be seeking employment — where the rubber meets the road for Ready to Work to claim success.

The sprawling program, overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2020, relies on a web of contractors and partnerships, with training providers and schools, nonprofits and employers. These partnerships will be key to the program’s success, said Mike Ramsey, the WDO’s executive director.

“We don’t work in silos,” he said. “We work in collaboration with various partners, employers, training providers and others who bring Ready to Work to life.” He called Pay It Forward “a shining example of what can be done when opportunity meets preparation.”

CPS Energy, which has sounded the alarm on its aging workforce, will need to hire hundreds of new employees to replace those who will retire in the next five years.

“Recruiting, hiring, and retaining top energy industry talent is key to providing reliable service within our communities,” stated Michael Clemons, managing principal of strategic talent and executive acquisition at the city-owned utility. “Our team is excited to collaborate with the WDO to find local San Antonio talent with the skills and ambition needed to serve our customers.”

While the pilot focuses on IT and financial services, Pay It Forward hopes to partner with employers in health care and advanced manufacturing in the next year.

CPS Energy and USAA are financial supporters of the San Antonio Report. For a full list of business members, click here.

Tracy Idell Hamilton covers business, labor and the economy for the San Antonio Report.