Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Cities Explore Transitional Employment for Youth, Ex-Offenders

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Cities Explore Transitional Employment for Youth, Ex-Offenders

Article excerpt

At age 18, Chailen had dropped out of high school and was afraid he would end up flipping burgers to make ends meet.

When he learned about the Portland Youthbuilders program in his neighborhood, he knew he had to take the initiative to get an education and develop work skills if he was ever going to get ahead.

"In cities across the country, too many young people are at risk of being tossed away by society," said Cliff Johnson, executive director of NLC's Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF Institute). "YouthBuild programs, which combine education and paid work experience, recognize that all young adults can be important assets to the local workforce."

Through this program, Chailen learned nearly all aspects of construction, from dry-walling to finish work, while simultaneously working to achieve his high school diploma.

"I've really found myself in this program," he said. "Youthbuilders don't have the freedom of public schools. They require discipline and focus, and they make sure you stay drug free."

NLC has been working with 10 cities to design transitional jobs programs that are similar in many respects to Portland YouthBuilders for a broad range of hard-to-employ individuals in their own communities,

These 10 cities--Baltimore, Md.; Detroit, Mich.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Jackson, Miss.; Richmond, Calif; Syracuse, N.Y.; San Antonio, Texas; Virginia Beach, Va.: Waco, Texas; and Winston-Salem, N.C.--have adopted the model of using paid, time-limited employment with wrap-around supports and services. While some are focusing their efforts on youth, others are using this model to support the employment of ex-offenders or homeless individuals.

For example, Detroit has collaborated with community partners to create a transitional jobs program for male probationers.

Through a partnership with Goodwill and a local half-way house that specializes in substance abuse treatment, participants engage in two weeks of job readiness training paired with paid work experience at an industrial site. …

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