Two months ago, the future looked bleak for students hoping for a hand up at YouthBuild. The program that has trained hundreds of high school dropouts in construction trades while simultaneously preparing them for a GED faced an end to its funding after 20 years in Seattle.
But last week, a bipartisan group of federal lawmakers announced a deal that would fund YouthBuild through 2020, along with a host of other programs promoting workforce training for dislocated workers, the disabled, migrants, Native Americans, adults seeking literacy education and high school dropouts.
“Millions of Americans rely on federal workforce programs to get the skills they need to compete,” said Senator Patty Murray, announcing the $10 billion Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which has support in both the Senate and House of Representatives.
Workforce development has not been successfully addressed at the federal level since 1998.
“If we want American workers who can fill new jobs at Microsoft or Boeing,” Murray said, “we need to update our training programs and give them skills they need in the 21st Century.”
She plans to tour YouthBuild’s South Seattle workshop and classrooms today.
There, she will meet a dozen young people chosen from a pool of 100 applicants for the six-month program. Each gets training in the construction trades, while building homes for Habitat for Humanity. Many are just steps away from homelessness when they arrive.
“The stories of the men and women who’ve gone through the YouthBuild program are simply incredible, and they prove that federal workforce development programs work,” Murray said. “These programs change lives by giving people an opportunity to get the education and training they need to get job.”
Murray’s support is just part of the good news for YouthBuild. Executive Director Melinda Giovengo said she recently inked an agreement with Seattle College (formerly Seattle Community College) that will give graduates of the program 38 credits toward an associate degree.
“That is just huge,” Giovengo said. “We’ve gotten a lot of really great things in place and Senator Murray has been a huge help. She’s interested in the fact that we truly move young people forward.”