In 1998, the high school drop-out rate for Trenton, NJ was 22.9-percent. (United Way of Tri-State) Those who drop out of high school in Trenton today face a tight job market: in June of 2004, Trenton’s unemployment rate was higher than the national average and stood at 7.6-percent. What can we do for young people who drop out of school and face limited prospects on the job market? We can help them finish their education while simultaneously providing them with job skills through program’s like Trenton’s YouthBuild.
YouthBuild is a multi-faceted program that provides at-risk youth with job training, education, counseling, job placement, and leadership development opportunities. The program is designed for individuals between the ages of 16 and 24 who have dropped out of school and are currently unemployed. YouthBuild focuses on providing these young people with a high school education and with the technical and life skills required to enter the job market. Program participants are recruited through the welfare department, nonprofit organizations, flyers posted in neighborhoods, and by word of mouth.
How does YouthBuild work? The program revolves around the construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing in central New Jersey. Over a six-month period, YouthBuild participants spend alternate weeks on the site of housing construction projects and in the classroom. Work on the construction site teaches trainees valuable skills with which they might compete on the job market. Work in the classroom teaches basic academic skills such as reading, writing, and mathematics, as well as life skills such as money management, and leadership skills. Between the classroom and the construction site, YouthBuild participants develop sound work habits, time management skills, problem-solving and decision-making abilities. In addition, the program’s intimate classes provide students with the opportunity to learn to work well as part of a team.
YouthBuild has been characterized as an alternative school (within which young people can earn a high school diploma or GED), a job training program, a leadership development program (participants share in the governance of the program through an elected policy committee), and a community service program (young people build or rehabilitate houses for low-income New Jersey residents). Approximately 50 to 60 high school drop-outs participate in the YouthBuild program each cycle. Over 75-percent of those who graduate from YouthBuild are currently employed in full-time, living wage jobs or enrolled in continuing education programs. At least 80 percent of students enrolled in the program at the 10th grade level obtain their high school diploma.
YouthBuild was created in 1995 by Isles, Inc., a nonprofit community development and environmental organization. Isles, Inc.’s mission is to help increase the self-reliance of families and individuals living in central New Jersey. In addition to its YouthBuild Program, Isles operates programs that focus on financial literacy training, homeownership counseling, community gardening, environmental education, community organizing, and regional planning. Through its various programs, Isles, Inc. assists over 10,000 New Jersey residents each year in their quest for self-sufficiency.
Contact Group: Isles, Inc.
Address: 10 Wood Street
Trenton, NJ 08618
Web site: www.isles.org