Originally posted at the California Special Districts Association.

What do the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, the Napa County Resource Conservation District and the Port of Hueneme have in common? In addition to being a special district, they are also three organizations committed to helping the next generation of youth become career and civic ready.

Through internships and civics education, these special districts are creating opportunities for high school youth to learn about work culture, policy making and how special districts function. The opportunities also provide organization-specific education around energy, shipping/trade and natural resources.

In California, nearly two million people work in state and local government1. In the Sacramento region alone, public sector employment is nearly 25% of all jobs2. The number of local and state government employees retiring means a new cohort of public employees need to take the helm3. Educating the next generation about the variety of careers available in the public sector is crucial to ensure that qualified public servants are ready to work in local government. Additionally, with dismally low voting records and lack of awareness about local government functions, it is important that special districts (as well as cities, counties and school districts) look at educating younger constituents about the roles and responsibilities of different agencies.

Through the spectrum of work-based learning, youth:

  • Become aware of career possibilities through tours, site visits, guest speakers, etc.;
  • Explore opportunities via informational interviews, job shadows and internships; and
  • Train for specific careers through apprenticeships, on-the-job training or work experience.

Sacramento Municipal Utility District Employees Share Career Journeys

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The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) provides work-based learning experiences through career ambassadors and internships. These activities bring SMUD employees and youth together to share in energy education and career awareness. Career Ambassadors visit local classrooms and prepare personalized presentations about their role and how they navigated their career. Through internships, SMUD engages with high school and college-level students to showcase the variety of careers at SMUD and create opportunity for local youth to experience the workforce.

Youth Connect with their Community through the Napa County Resource Conservation District

The Napa County Resource Conservation District (NCRCD) provides a variety of programs to engage the community’s youth in their pursuit of conservation. Through the LandSmart® Community Education program, NCRCD creates connections and inspire conservation by offering opportunities to participate in stewardship and work-based learning activities. Steward programs are tailored for different aged youth from elementary to college level students. Through the high school steward program, youth participate in 3-5 day field trips and receive mentorship. Youth learn about personal leadership, stewardship and explore the careers (and path towards) of the staff at NCRCD. Frances Knapczyk, Conservation Programs Manager at NCRCD advises special districts getting started to “start small, scale up and establish relationships with teachers and mentors” as well as to “provide clear direction and expectations” when working with youth.

Port of Hueneme Connects Youth to Business and Public Sector Careers

In the Port of Hueneme and Oxnard area, more than 13,000 jobs are related to the activities of the port. To engage youth in the activities of the special district, the Port of Hueneme provides classroom tours and organizes a special 13-week class for high school students on global logistics. The agency has also established partnerships with local colleges to support student and economic development.

Through its Governments Engaging Youth initiative, the Institute for Local Government (ILG) supports programs like these by sharing best practices and providing tools and resources. ILG commends these special districts for working to prepare the next generation of local leaders and positively engaging the youth in their communities.

ILG Releases Governments Engaging Youth Toolkit

ILG released a new online toolkit to support and enhance youth-civic engagement and work-based learning efforts. The toolkit provides resources and materials for counties and schools to collaborate to implement dynamic programming that offers youth opportunities to become civically engaged and interested in public sector careers through job shadows or internships. Find examples of different program models, sample curriculum plans and work-based learning guides in the new toolkit.

Please contact Randi Kay Stephens  or Hang Tran at  if you have any questions or would like additional information.