WHAT IS YOUTHBUILD?

YouthBuild is a youth and community development program that simultaneously addresses core issues facing low-income communities: housing, education, employment, crime prevention, and youth leadership development. In YouthBuild programs, low-income young people ages 16 to 24 work toward their GED or high school diploma while learning the skills of the construction business through hands-on construction activities. Many of the youth have had experience with foster care, juvenile justice, welfare, and homelessness.

The YouthBuild Model has become a very comprehensive approach. In this full-time program, participants divide their time between the construction site and the YouthBuild alternative school. While attending classes to achieve their educational goals, the youth work with construction firms to learn job skills by building affordable housing for homeless and low-income individuals. Strong emphasis is placed on leadership development and community service.

Participants spend six to 24 months in both a classroom and construction setting in this full-time program. Community- and faith-based nonprofit organizations sponsor most programs, although some are sponsored by public agencies, and each YouthBuild program raises private and public funds to support itself. Primary support comes from the U.S. Department of Labor through a dedicated federal line-item. In most communities, YouthBuild serves as a variation of the following:

  • An alternative school, in which young people attend a YouthBuild school full-time on alternate weeks, studying for their GEDs or high school diplomas. Classes generally allow one-on-one attention to students;
  • A community service program, in which young people build housing for homeless and other low-income individuals, providing a valuable and visible commodity;
  • A job training and pre-apprenticeship program, in which young people get close supervision and training in construction skills full-time on alternate weeks from qualified instructors;
  • A leadership development and civic engagement program, in which youth share in the governance of their own program through an elected policy committee and participate actively in community affairs, learning the values and the life-long commitment needed to be effective and ethical community leaders;
  • A youth development program, in which youth participate in personal counseling, peer support groups, and life planning processes that assist them in healing from past trials in their lives, overcoming negative habits and attitudes, and pursuing achievable goals that will establish a productive life;
  • A long-term mini-community, in which young people make new friends committed to a positive lifestyle, pursue cultural and recreational activities together, and can continue to participate for years through the YouthBuild Alumni Association; and
  • A community development program, in which community-based organizations obtain the resources to tackle several key community issues at once, strengthening their capacity to build and manage housing for their residents, educate and inspire their youth, prevent crime, create leadership for the future, and generally take responsibility for their neighborhoods.

In 2006, the YouthBuild Program was transferred from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). This was done to more effectively align the YouthBuild program with existing federal youth workforce and training programs.