CDE launches paid internships initiative for youth, plans to improve student performance

An initiative to offer paid internships to California teens and young adults in an attempt to prepare the next generation for the workforce and curb a spike in crime was announced by the California Department of Education on Oct. 10. Days later on Oct. 16, the department unveiled its plan to align work happening across the state in order to measure student outcomes.


“Our premise is that paid internships do make a difference for our students … We want them to have access to a career, a trajectory, that gives them a great life,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said during a press conference announcing the statewide effort. “Sometimes our young people don’t know about those opportunities and sometimes they struggle, and they need dollars in their pocket. And sometimes young people get caught up and make choices that shouldn’t define the rest of their lives.”

According to the CDE, internal data indicates students in career technical education programs have lower rates of chronic absenteeism and higher graduation rates. Offering students opportunities to explore potential careers can set them on a positive path and potentially deter crime. It also allows young people who couldn’t otherwise afford to take unpaid internships the chance to grow their skills.

The press conference preceded a summit on the same topic that considered ways to create paid training and career coaching programs.

A pilot program will reportedly launch in Oakland, serving 13-to-24-year-olds, and later expand to Sacramento, Fresno, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego.

CDE will work with partners to braid funding sources. Foundations, businesses, corporations and individual donors can make contributions to assist in funding pilot programs until a legislative allocation can be pursued.

In 2022, Thurmond sponsored Assembly Bill 2088 to fund paid internships and intends to introduce legislative and budget recommendations in 2024, informed by the summit.

Parties interested in participating, partnering or supporting the paid internships can email

Thurmond assured attendees and viewers of the press conference that the new endeavor does not change the state’s support for the career pathway, youth employment and youth development programs already deployed in many local educational agencies. As paid youth internships can be hard to come by, the effort simply aims to serve even more young people, he noted.

At the press conference, Agustin Toledo, the lead teacher for Coachella Valley High School’s Hospitality Academy, spoke on the Coachella Valley Unified School District campus’ program structure. Toledo, who is a product of the academy, explained that the LEA is located in close proximity to a number of high-end resorts — six of whom they partner with for student internships in the spring and summer months.

During their sophomore year, students prepare for these internships by touring hotels and participating in a 12-week job shadowing experience. In their junior year, internships become available, and students go through a normal hiring process including interviews, paperwork and orientation alongside other employees, said Coachella Valley High senior and paid student intern Erick Pena-Martinez.

Pena-Martinez worked at the Ritz-Carlton and is expected to be asked back this year as an employee, Toledo said.

Pena-Martinez added that the program has changed his life for the better and that he saw the benefits of connecting what he learned in class to real-world situations.

Coachella Valley USD also partners with California State University, San Bernardino, to connect students to the hospitality program housed at its Palm Desert Campus.

Student performance

With unprecedented funding flowing the state, the CDE proposed a call to action for education stakeholders to align their work and build a better future for students.

Drawing on existing investments in universal transitional kindergarten, expanded learning program, community schools and other programs, Thurmond said “we will be working to create a deeper alignment in how those grants are implemented and so they’re not just individual grants, but instead kind of a framework for how to support student success and we will be working to change the reporting mechanisms on those grants and so they all align to reporting measurable outcomes, what I call comparable measurable outcomes, and so we can see how students are doing all across the state … and are these investments making an impact.”

Additionally, CDE intends to spearhead an effort to provide robust training in math and reading for teachers, classified staff, administrators, specialists and others across the K-12 system. Thurmond said the department will introduce legislation in the new legislative cycle to fund professional development opportunities and may secure more than $500 million in total.

Improving outcomes for students will be a priority, but there will be special attention paid to the needs of Native American, African American, Latino and low-income students as well as those with disabilities. Addressing the achievement gap will not be an overnight process, Thurmond noted.

Leaders from Hacienda La Puente Unified School District, Los Angeles USD and Compton USD also spoke at the press conference and detailed local initiatives that have resulted in improved student outcomes, such as focusing on college and career prep, the rollout of ethnic studies curriculum, offering social-emotional supports, encouraging attendance, professional development and more.

CSBA Past President Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez, who currently serves as Deputy Director of Californians Together, was also present to share the importance of professional development, especially as it pertains to working with English learner students.

Anyone interested in working with the CDE to improve statewide student performance is encouraged to email