In late May 2022, the City Council heard an inspiring account of a key component of the investment recommendations made by Richmond’s Reimagining Public Safety Community Task Force, this one highlighting YouthWORKS. Tamara Walker, Deputy Director for Employment and Training, led the presentation. She worked in the city in the 1990s and was actually a founder of this forward-moving program. She did not take full credit, of course, noting that there is a full staff participating in this venture. She handed the mic over to Fred Lucero, Manager for Richmond Build and YouthBuild and Bouakhay Phongboupha, Interim YouthWORKS program manager for their accounts of preparing young people to work. Lucero noted that his group aims to ensure continuing education and training in year-round and summer programs helping youth prepare for high-growth and high-wage jobs in the building trades as well as develop skills that will aid them in adulthood.
This program was awarded over $11 million in Fiscal Year 2021-22 for employment and training services for Richmond residents, including programming for youth with disabilities. YouthWORKS served over 500 young people, ages 16-24, for both short-term and permanent jobs as well as supportive services.
The report also included prospective plans for the coming fiscal year. These include technical skills training and building career pathways, as well as sending young people into quality jobs that provide living wages, and benefits. YouthWORKS is aware that trainees need to have the resources and services for both entering and participating in the broader workforce arena, so they steer those education and training programs to line up with broader regional labor market prospects. Specific plans for the next year include training 100 Richmond residents for careers in construction, renewable energy sectors, and other employment in the building trades.