NORMAL —YouthBuild McLean County recently received a three-year, $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Labor Department that will increase its revenues nearly 30 percent.
The U.S. Labor Department recently awarded $5.1 million in grants to five YouthBuild programs in Illinois. In addition to YouthBuild McLean County, YouthBuild programs in Cairo, Chicago, Godfrey, and Peoria also received grants from the U.S. Labor Department.
Based in Normal, YouthBuild McLean County helps high school dropouts get their diplomas and provides job training for them.
“We are a charter school and GED program, and provide vocational training to drop outs and, most recently, youth on the verge of dropping out that are enrolled in the Unit 5 School District,” said YouthBuild McLean County Director of Organizational Advancement Alicia Lenard. “Students may transfer to our program with a school recommendation.”
Currently, 68 people are enrolled in YouthBuild McLean County, including 50 charter school students. With the planned addition of a warehouse and logistics program, YouthBuild McLean County hopes to expand its enrollment to 125 people.
“The program is still in the planning stages, but we anticipate being able to provide forklift and general warehouse training,” said Lenard. “We already have a master trainer on staff that can provide forklift/warehouse as well as many other (types of) training.
“The additional training program will definitely capture the interest of certain youth. We look forward to providing training in a highly marketable area to our young people.”
YouthBuild McLean County received approval from the U.S. Labor Department for the warehouse and logistics program a year ago, but didn’t have the money to launch the program. For the past three years, the U.S. Labor Department has been unable to provide funding for YouthBuild McLean County.
Currently, YouthBuild McLean County’s job training focuses largely on residential construction. It has built 20 homes in a subdivision in Carlock and four more are under construction.
YouthBuild McLean County will use a portion of the grant funds to purchase equipment and train staff for its warehouse and logistics program. It will also use the funds to support its current programs and “potentially restore a small stipend for our youth,” said Lenard.
“Restoring the stipend is a possibility,” said Lenard. “The amount, if restored, has not been determined. The stipend is used to help offset general living costs while the students complete their education. Many of them are parents and have financial responsibilities.”
According to Lenard, the number of YouthBuild McLean County applicants dropped off in the last two years when federal funding was halted and the program had to drop the bi-weekly stipends it offered students.
“Young people are looking at it like, ‘I have children, I have rent, I have financial responsibilities, although I want to go back to school and get my education, I have bills that I’m responsible for, so I’m just going to get a job at McDonald’s,’” said Lenard.
YouthBuild McLean County relies on a combination of private and public funding sources.
To learn more about YouthBuild McLean County, visit www.youthbuildmcleancounty.org.