LOCK HAVEN - Some at-risk Clinton County young people could benefit from a "YouthBuild" that will train them in construction and other skills, if STEP is successful in obtaining a Labor and Industry grant.
STEP Economic and Business Development Director Dan Merk and Director of Planning Rachelle Abbott provided the Clinton County commissioners with an overview of the possibilities at the county's work session Monday.
YouthBuild is a nonprofit organization which provides education, counseling and job skills to unemployed young American adults (between ages 16 and 24), who are generally high school dropouts.
Merk said STEP has a $1.1 million, three-on-three application that covers the program for Lycoming, Clinton and Northumberland counties.
In Clinton, Abbot said, the two-year grant program would provide services to three sets of six students.
Northumberland would have similar numbers and Lycoming County, with its higher population, would see about double Clinton County's share.
Abbot said it's hoped the construction trades training will be in conjunction with the STEP housing renovation program, which is supported by county government-generated Community Development Block Grant funding.
Nationally, there are 273 YouthBuild programs with a capacity of about 10,000 students yearly, and there are similar programs underway in over 15 countries.
Abbott said the program has seen a large measure of success in Lycoming County, with high placement numbers in occupation and low recidivism rates among the participants.
The YouthBuild program has five components: construction, education, counseling, leadership and graduate opportunity.
Students spend every other week on a job site, learning the construction trade by building homes for their own communities.
This creates housing for low-income people, and also gives the students marketable job skills.
The alternate weeks are spent on education in the YouthBuild classroom, with the goal of attaining a GED or completing a high school diploma.
Abbott said the focus is on students who come from difficult life situations, so counseling is available to help them deal with anger management, family responsibilities, and other adjustment issues.
Many referrals come from the Children and Youth Services sector.
Leadership is also a part of the YouthBuild programs, and efforts are made to include civic volunteerism as a component of the training.
Beyond the basics, the young people are also encouraged and offered opportunities to go on to college, work in the nonprofit sector, serve on committees or even run in local politics.
In Lycoming County, STEP professionals have worked with the Pennsylvania College of Technology, and Lock Haven University may step in with a partnership for the Clinton County component.
The program also seeks partnerships with the trade industry itself, particularly when it comes to apprenticeship programs.
Funding for YouthBuild comes from the Department of Labor, but is melded with other funding sources including other government agencies, private foundations, corporations, and individual donors.
Founded and directed by Dorothy Stoneman and John Bell, one of the main purposes of YouthBuild is to build affordable housing for low-income families. Since 1994, more than 19,000 homes have been built by 92,000 YouthBuild students.