It’s no secret the federal stimulus package is creating numerous job training and employment opportunities. But these opportunities are just for workers already established in their careers, right? Wrong!
Provisions in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) will specifically benefit low-income people, age 14 to 24. Highlights include:
- $1.2 billion for education and occupational skills development, mostly through the existing Workforce Investment Act (WIA).
- $50 million for education and employment skills through YouthBuild, an organization that constructs or renovaates affordable housing for low-income or homeless families.
Separate from the ARRA, there’s also $9.8 million from the Department of Labor to provide career assistance to disadvantaged young parents.
“Getting young people engaged and employed could really contribute to the emerging economy,” says Mala Thakur, executive director of the National Youth Employment Coalition in Washington, DC. “If they’re employed at a living wage, they will be paying taxes and making other contributions -- that makes them a real resource for our country.”
Do these programs sound interesting? Learn more about the opportunities and how to take advantage of them.
“A common complaint from employers is that young people are not prepared for the workforce, that they lack basic work skills,” explains Nichole Ossa, employment and training specialist for WorkSource Thurston County in Tumwater, Washington. “Some of the training is designed to offset employer training costs, providing an incentive to employers to hire and creating a ‘cushion’ for employers who are hesitant to hire while the economy is in recovery.”
For instance, WorkSource’s CareerTREK program helps low-income youths develop career plans, as well as prepare them academically and vocationally for a career. The initiative also provides assistance in finding and maintaining employment.
You can find programs like this via your local One-Stop Career Center, which will have information on youth training available in your area. Most programs across the board offer training in interviewing, communications and interpersonal skills, and some even provide specific occupational training like clerical or technical skills.
Additionally, the Department of Labor has a pilot program that will provide special assistance to young parents seeking education and skills training. Thirteen service agencies across the country will provide job training, mentoring, child care and personal finance guidance to fathers, mothers and expectant mothers aged 16 to 24.
The ARRA also includes provisions for summer job programs. Most programs began June 1, but it’s still worth checking with local job centers to see if space is available.
At Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the Creating Futures program includes summer employment programs that place youths in jobs paying $8 per hour. In addition to valuable on-the-job training, the program offers a 30-hour work readiness training program that covers soft skills such as time management, accepting criticism from supervisors, collaborating with colleagues and developing proper work attitudes.
ARRA summer employment programs are federally funded through 2011, but most people believe funding will be used up this year. “Barring new legislation, youth interested in employment assistance should look to the programs that were in place before ARRA, like the WIA Youth Program and Job Corps,” Ossa says.
Another option for at-risk youth is YouthBuild, which offers low-income 16- to 24-year-olds an opportunity to learn a trade, pursue a GED or high school diploma, and create affordable housing in their communities. The program also includes counseling, mentoring and need-based stipends.
Construction skills developed in the program will be in demand as large-scale construction projects funded by ARRA begin, Thakur notes, adding, “young people could be a big part in building or rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure.” YouthBuild also is adopting more green and sustainable building practices, preparing participants for green jobs.
Career development and occupational training programs like these provide more than a boost to our nation’s economy. They can help disadvantaged young people establish economic independence. “There could be real opportunities for young people, not just to get a job but to get skills to get on a pathway to a living wage,” Thakur says.
Adds Carla Andorf, Kirkwood’s skills to employment director: “This is a way for young people to gain valuable experience and contribute to the community. A small investment in our youth today will help them be a better workforce tomorrow.”