Community Development Block Grant
Success Stories

San Mateo, CA - Mayor Claire Mack

SMILE-IT Program

In June 1997 the City of San Mateo responded to a need for a high-tech job-training program tailored to a local job market influenced by the Silicon Valley, and to Bay Area employers' desires to find technically skilled employees within the region. The response: the San Mateo Information Learning Enterprise-Information Technologist (SMILE-IT) Program, designed to provide low-income youth and young adults, 17 to 25 years of age, with information technology and customer service skills necessary for the quality entry-level job opportunities that exist in the San Francisco Bay Area region. This job training program 1) links youth completing high school to employment opportunities and higher education; 2) addresses local business employers' needs by having businesses participate as customers at the beginning of the development of each training session, helping to customize the curriculum to meet their employment needs; and 3) ensures that low-income residents in San Mateo have access to information technology learning and have an opportunity to participate in the global economy.

The Program involves 12 weeks of education and training on information technology and customer service skills. Participants attend classes Monday through Friday, from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., at the College of San Mateo. They learn how to use a computer and various software programs, install programs and equipment, and repair them. They also learn about excellence in customer service. The youth receive instruction, on-the-job training, career and personal development, support services available at the college campus, enrichment activities, high school credit and as many as 12 units of college credit. The Police Department provides the stipends and financial incentives, and Stanford University developed the evaluation procedures for this program. The business customers ultimately hire many of the students.

The pilot program started in March 1998. Implementing it involved a variety of partnerships: The City's Community Development Department (CDD) coordinated the development and implementation of the pilot program, bringing the other partners into the project. CDBG has been the primary source of funding; use of the funds include the purchase of computer equipment and materials for classroom instruction. The expectation is that business customers and private investors will become the largest contributors to SMILE-IT and reduce dependence on CDBG.

The consultant hired to design the information technology and customer service training obtained an agreement with the College of San Mateo and other public and private sector organizations for support. The consultant also obtained funding from Pacific Bell Corporation.

The San Mateo Public Library became the first customer. The Library did not have the technical support to handle its rapidly growing computer needs, nor did it have the support staff for installing and maintaining its computer network and gaining Internet access. The Library recruited trainees, provided on-the-job training and funding for stipends, and ultimately hired four trainees as technicians.

The College of San Mateo agreed to be the service provider for the Program, assisting in recruiting participants and providing education and instruction. The College provides the support services necessary for youth to successfully complete the program - including transportation, career counseling and development - and awards college credit.

The San Mateo Police Department identifies troubled youth that would be interested in SMILE-IT and provides funding for incentive bonuses and stipends through a federal crime prevention grant. Local public school districts support the program, recruit students, participate in enrichment activities, or provide funding. Private sector collaborators include Pacific Bell, Intuit, TCI Cable, and San Mateo County Credit Control.

Eighteen students were recruited and 16 of them successfully completed the first-year pilot phase of the Program. Four of the trainees received high-tech employment positions at the San Mateo Public Library, and eight attended two- and four-year colleges.

Contact: Denise Kadara, Economic Development Specialist, (650) 522-7243

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