Historically, high school students in the nation’s poorest neighborhoods have faced barriers to an education equal to those in the wealthiest neighborhoods. In the past year, closures and virtual learning forced by the pandemic are deepening this inequality and are likely to hurt disadvantaged students’ future earning potential, a recent Yale University study shows.
To help combat the growing disparity, the U.S. Department of Labor has announced a funding opportunity for $90 million in YouthBuild program grants to provide occupational skills training, employment services and educational support to disadvantaged youth, ages 16-24, in communities where inequalities hinder basic academic and career skills development. These funds will also provide pre-apprenticeship services for in-demand industries including construction, healthcare, information technology and hospitality.
Administered by the department’s Employment and Training Administration, these grants will fund approximately 75 projects nationwide with individual grants ranging from $700,000 to $1.5 million. The opportunity follows the department’s 2021 guidance that prioritizes quality jobs, green building and community violence intervention. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act supports the grants.
In the past, YouthBuild grants have enabled program participants to support initiatives such as the following:
- Helping Davis Memorial Hospital in West Virginia – one of the largest employers in the rural area – find skilled workers. The YouthBuild Elkins program provides an entry point to develop skills, work experience, and credentials recognized by the hospital and creates a pipeline to employment. In addition, the program partners with the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine and Randolph County Housing Authority to develop a comprehensive C+ program to meet an urgent community need to address a range of health concerns local residents face.
- In Oregon, the Portland YouthBuilders program operates a long-standing, urban charter school providing participants with up to 24 months of active programming and 12 months of follow-up. The program works with the local American Job Center and the city’s Housing Authority directly, and actively focuses on new apprenticeship initiatives underway in the information technology industry.
- In Denver, Rise Up is a YouthBuild charter school. Denver Health, a major employer partner, provides an on-the-job training component of the Mile High YouthBuild C+ healthcare program, and sees the partnership as critical to growing the hospital’s trained workforce.