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YouthBuild USA: Providing Green Jobs and Affordable Housing for Youth

In YouthBuild programs, low-income young people ages 16 to 24 work full-time toward their GEDs or high school diplomas while learning job skills by building affordable, green housing in their communities. They are then placed in college, jobs, or both.

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"Globally, YouthBuild programs engage unemployed young people who confront numerous barriers to their development including limited education, family poverty, homelessness, substance abuse, violence, gang involvement, and health issues. YouthBuild programs equip young people with the human, social, and financial capital to achieve skills that lead to viable livelihoods in their families. YouthBuild participants learn job skills while building community assets such as affordable green housing, community centers, playgrounds, and schools. In 2013, over 11,000 YouthBuild graduates in the United States and internationally were placed in jobs, education, entrepreneurship and other opportunities leading to productive livelihoods.

YouthBuild provides young people the opportunity to learn construction skills while building affordable housing and many YouthBuild graduates are placed in careers in construction-related industries. YouthBuild USA and YouthBuild programs in the United States have developed alternative career pathways in the healthcare, technology, and first-responder fields that have been approved for funding under DOL Youth- Build grants. Each of these YouthBuild programs established links with employers and postsecondary institutions in high-demand sectors to provide opportunities for graduates to earn credentials and obtain jobs in these fields.

Today, over 135 local YouthBuild programs have identified and are engaging students and graduates in training for a variety of vocations, including weatherization, solar panel installation, culinary arts, hospitality, manufacturing, logistics, and transportation, as well as additional healthcare career pathways.

By 2014, green-building jobs are predicted to account for nearly half of the design and construction workforce. To help meet this demand, the YouthBuild USA Green Initiative helps YouthBuild programs introduce green careers to YouthBuild students and helps them obtain industry- recognized credentials.

In 2013, the initiative certified or recertified 120 YouthBuild construc- tion trainers who will in turn engage over 1,000 YouthBuild students to earn industry-recognized green construction credentials. Also in 2013, the initiative opened five regional training centers to make it easier for local construction trainers to attend certification trainings. The Green Initiative is working with YouthBuild International to establish a pilot industry-recognized green credentials training at Youth Eco Leadership Corps in Bosnia Herzegovina.

Ely Flores, a 2005 graduate of a YouthBuild program in Los Angeles, works with low-income families to install solar panels to reduce their home energy costs. He has said that 'Youth Build is creating a workforce of green leaders . . . who must be part of the boom of the green-collar economy.'"

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Photo of Meena Kadri

Great combo of job creation and sustainable housing!

Photo of Danny Petrow

This is clearly a great program for the people and communities that it serves. I wonder if there is a way to tweak this model to serve people who are already enrolled in college and looking for other areas of experience.

Photo of Meena Kadri

Great call, Danny – and that's a gem to hold on to for our upcoming Ideas phase too. How might we create meaningful work experiences for those who are currently studying? (we can't wait to see folks unleash their innovative thinking on that! Especially thinking about systems and services which could offer this at scale...)

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