Helping Young People Build Their Careers and Communities

Authors: Gregory Bell, Green For All Jobs are hard to find these days, especially for teenagers. Last week's jobs report was another sobering reminder of the obstacles facing young people: The unemployment rate for teenagers is currently 25%, near a record high. For communities of color, the challenges are even greater. The African American teen unemployment rate is more than 39%; for Latinos, it's more than 36%. When teens can't find jobs, they miss more than a paycheck — they also miss an opportunity to gain experience and learn the skills they need to succeed in life. That's why job-training programs, like those Green For All is proud to work with, are so important: They help young people build their careers and communities. This week, GFA was proud to join with Congress Member Chaka Fattah at Temple University to celebrate two of our partners, who are doing so much to give young people the best possible start in life: The Philadelphia Youth Network and The Corps Network.

"As the nation struggles to pull itself out of a prolonged recession, it is critical to encourage efforts that provide training and useful work for young men and women, especially those in low-income and minority communities," said Rep. Fattah. "The valuable programs of Philadelphia Youth Network, the Corps Network and Green for All advance that goal in Philadelphia, with projects that improve our community while putting young people to work." Both PYN and TCN are members of Green For All's 2011 Youth Employment and Leadership Ladders working group, designed to identify and share best practices about job training programs that provide pathways out of poverty. In particular, the event showcased the Building Information Technology Skills (BITS) Summer Program, a Temple University program supported through the WorkReady Philadelphia system. Students, ages 14 to 16, displayed recently completed online maps, detailing the environmental health of Philadelphia's urban watersheds. The young people created the maps using newly acquired digital literary skills, which have helped them provide service to their neighborhoods, and gain valuable experience in a workplace setting. "Connecting youth to green jobs and training experiences that prepare them for a growing economic sector makes a lot of sense," said Carol Austin, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives at the Philadelphia Youth Network, which oversees the WorkReady Philadelphia system. "We know that young people have the interest and ability to take advantage of these kinds of work-based learning opportunities. In fact, for every young person we placed in a WorkReady program this year, we had another who applied but could not be served due to a lack of funded programs. Our goal is to give a work experience to every young person who wants one."

To accomplish this goal, it's important to invest in growing sectors like the green economy, which provides incredible opportunities for young people, according to The Corps Network's recently released publication: A Green Career Pathways Framework: Postsecondary and Employment Success for Low-Income, Disconnected Youth. Developed in partnership with Green For All, and over 30 other organizations, the report outlines how the growing green economy can provide jobs for disconnected youth, coupled with suggestions to help stakeholders take advantage of these opportunities. "A Green Career Pathways Framework offers guidance to youth programs and those who work with and support those programs, about accessing industry-recognized credentials and green job opportunities within local communities or regions," said Sally Prouty, President and CEO of The Corps Network. "With this knowledge in hand, youth programs can engage employers and postsecondary partners to build 'On-Ramps' for low-income youth onto pathways into postsecondary education and provide the supports necessary for them to obtain credentials and move into careers with opportunity for advancement." Green For All is proud to work with partners like Congress Member Fattah, The Philadelphia Youth Network and The Corps Network to help young people go as far as their talent will take them. As Rep. Fattah said, we don't just want to give future generations the baton: We want them to run faster than we ever have. Thanks to our great partners, so many young people now have the skills to make positive change happen — both for themselves and their communities.

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