SPRINGFIELD - The recruitment criteria for YouthBuild Springfield may not be your typical want ad - applicants who dropped out of high school, may have had law enforcement issues, or parents who were incarcerated - but the workforce development program at the YWCA of Western Massachusetts is designed to help such applicants overcome barriers and gain education for successful lives.
"The program really is for young people who need a second chance," said Jenniefer Davis, director of workforce development at the YWCA of Western Massachusetts.
"We are looking for young people, ages 17 to 24, who have had barriers to success. They may be from low-income families. They may have a criminal background. They may have had challenges in school. They may be from migrant families. We want those young people to come in."
Davis said the desire is for these young people to be interested in getting "their high school credentials, gaining some job skills and coming into an environment that is going to welcome them in and help them be able to establish goals and make a successful transition into adulthood."
The program is recruiting for its new year beginning mid-May.
It can accommodate 30 participants who study for their High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) and pre-apprenticeship certification training from the Home Builders Institute (HBI), as well as become eligible for internships once those credentials are earned, along with a construction industry safety certificate.
Elizabeth G. Dineen, the former Hampden County assistant district attorney who now heads the YWCA of Western Massachusetts, said many of the several hundred participants who have gone through the 12-year old program have been "very successful upon graduation," with some finding employment, others furthering their education and some getting jobs in the trades.
Davis said the program has a "regimented scheduled," alternating between academics and job skills training, so "participants know what to expect and that feels safe." She feels this setup gives them the "chance to step back from their lives and do something positive for themselves."
"We have so many young people who are disconnected from school. They had a real, significant challenge in trying to feel successful in a school setting for a variety of reasons," Davis said.
"Coming into this program they have caring, supportive adults who are willing to be their mentors and help them problem solve and reduce the barriers in their lives. They are able then to go into an academic setting for their HiSET and work with my education instructor who helps them to learn and earn a credential that is going to help them move forward in their lives."
Davis added, "Similarly, they go into the construction program and learn new skills."
"Even if their goal is not to be in construction field, to be able to feel like you have acquired new skills and to apply those things and help your friends or family or yourself builds self-confidence and resilience and their interests in doing different things for themselves in the future. This is really the foundation of the program," she said.
Davis said participants complete the program between a time span of six to 12 months, "depending on the progress of the person." She said participants are expected to meet attendance requirements, and get much individualized support to help accomplish this. They are also able to access services for a year after graduation.
"People come in at different educational levels and progress through the program at a different pace," Davis said.
"Once they achieve their HiSET, we look to help them go into the next step and access employment. We offer internships for young people that are paid. They are able to work in employment settings with staff so they have a successful first working experience and they are building their resume."
Davis said anyone interested in the program should contact her at (413) 732-3121 ext. 171 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published on MassLive April 30, 2017.