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News / Clark County News

Youth jobs, education aim of $1.1M federal grant

Six local nonprofits will share money from 'YouthBuild' program

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian staff writer
Published: August 17, 2014, 5:00pm

As many as 60 Clark County youth who seem headed for trouble — dropping out of school, failing to find work — will benefit from a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor that aims to help them stay in school or earn equivalency diplomas while also building construction skills.

Six local nonprofit agencies will share the “YouthBuild” grant: the Southwest Washington Workforce Development Council, Partners in Careers, Innovative Services NW, Evergreen Habitat for Humanity, the Vancouver Housing Authority and WorkSource.

“Youth unemployment is high in our region, and these funds will enable us to provide opportunities for youth to complete their high school education while learning construction and other skills,” said Jeanne Bennett, CEO of the Southwest Washington Workforce Development Council, the lead agency in managing the grant. “We anticipate a need for additional construction workers in the near future and this program will give our youth the training they need to compete for these jobs.”

Classroom studies, onsite work experience and community service activities will help at least 45 and perhaps as many as 60 disadvantaged Clark County youth, ages 17 to 21, complete their high school graduation requirements and earn a diploma or a General Educational Development certificate.

At the same time, they’ll be able to serve apprenticeships and earn industry certifications in the construction trades.

Some participants may even be able to get “transitional” housing via the Vancouver Housing Authority.

“We may be working with youth who are potentially aging out of the foster care system — in which case they may need a place to live,” said SWWDC spokeswoman Julie Maglione. “If we have individuals in need of housing, we have a partner who can help.”

It’ll all culminate with participants working on two energy-efficient low-income home construction projects via Evergreen Habitat for Humanity, the charitable homebuilder.

“YouthBuild participants will further their education and learn new jobs skills while at the same time giving back to their community. It will give young people without a diploma a second chance to accomplish their goals,” said Chelsae Chunn, the youth initiatives manager for SWWDC.

The grant is part of $73.7 million in YouthBuild grants the Department of Labor will award to 71 YouthBuild programs across 31 states and the District of Columbia. It is expected to benefit nearly 5,000 young people overall.

“YouthBuild grants are incredibly competitive and we are overjoyed our strong and dedicated partnerships landed this unique opportunity for our region,” Chunn said.

The program will start up later this year. To learn more, visit www.swwdc.org.