From its inception in the 1970s as a single program in New York City, YouthBuild has expanded to a national network of more than 200 local programs serving approximately 7,000 youth per year. Eligibility is typically limited to out-of-school youth ages 16-24, who are from a low-income family, in foster care, are offenders, migrants, disabled, or are children of incarcerated parents. The main goals of the program are to:
- enable disadvantaged youth to obtain the education and employment skills necessary to achieve self-sufficiency in high-demand occupations and postsecondary education and training opportunities;
- provide disadvantaged youth with opportunities for meaningful work and service to communities;
- foster the development of employment and leadership skills and commitment to community development among youth in low-income communities; and
- expand the supply of permanent affordable housing for homeless individuals and low-income families by utilizing the energies and talents of disadvantaged youth.
Most YouthBuild participants spend from 8 to 12 months full time in the program receiving a variety of services, including stipends, wages, or living allowances. These services typically include some kind of assessment, a “mental toughness” orientation, educational activities, vocational training, leadership training and community service, counseling, support services, job placement, and follow-up services. Participants are offered educational services at least 50 percent of the time that they are in the program, and services provided can include basic skills instruction, remedial education, bilingual education, alternative education leading to a high school diploma or GED, counseling or assistance in attaining postsecondary education and financial aid, and alternative secondary school services. Participants generally spend most of the remaining half of their time in the program in construction training — rehabilitating or building housing for low-income or homeless people.