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Governor Wolf Announces $5.8 Million to Prepare Youth Reentrants for Good Jobs

December 20, 2019

Governor Tom Wolf is investing nearly $5.8 million to provide young adults who were in the justice system with educational, training and skills-building opportunities to better prepare them for good jobs and successful careers that we need in Pennsylvania.

“This investment will help those who have interacted with the justice system to get the skills they need for a good job and to build a career,” said Governor Wolf. “Education and job training are crucial to removing barriers to work so people can put their lives back on track and build a stronger workforce in Pennsylvania.

“Expanding educational and vocational programs for reentrants is the smart thing to do and a priority for my administration. These grants are a step in that direction.”

The Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) awarded $5.8 million for Youth Reentry Demonstration Project grants to 10 local workforce development boards (LWDBs). These programs blend academic and job training, provide connections to area employers in high-priority jobs, support mentorships, and forge connections to education and training.

L&I Deputy Secretary for Workforce Development Eileen Cipriani today highlighted the $988,925 grant award for the Workforce Board Lehigh Valley (WBLV) at a press conference in Allentown, where she was joined by Lehigh County Executive Phil Armstrong, Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure, and local workforce, education and county judicial representatives.

WBLV’s grant program will integrate the PA CareerLink® Lehigh Valley workforce system into the justice systems of Northampton and Lehigh counties that provide referrals of incarcerated youth to re-engage into education, training and employment. Post-secondary education partners Northampton Community College and Lehigh Carbon Community College will coordinate the education and training needs of participants, and the Pennsylvania Academic and Career/Technical Training Alliance will provide expertise in employability and soft skills.

“As Lehigh county executive, I am pleased that a coordination process has already been established for this grant, which will expand, enhance, and streamline connections between the justice and workforce systems to reengage young adults who were incarcerated or were subject to the justice system,” said Lehigh County Executive Phillips M. Armstrong. “Lehigh County fully supports the Lehigh Valley Youth Reentry Demonstration Grant.”

The Youth Reentry Demonstration Projects will operate through March 31, 2022. The program supports engaging young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 years old, who were incarcerated or subjected to the justice system, in a career path leading to postsecondary education, job training and gainful employment.

“Northampton County and the Workforce Board Lehigh Valley already have a strong connection through the Linking to Employment Activities Pre-Release program, a workforce system within the Northampton County Jail that prepares soon-to-be released inmates with career readiness skills,” said Northampton County Executive Lamont G. McClure. “This coordination process will be enhanced through the Youth Reentry Demonstration Grant, which will engage youth ages 18-24 into education, training, and employment.”

“Reentry and reintegration are priorities for Governor Tom Wolf, who is focused on removing employment obstacles to help young adults overcome barriers to post-incarceration success,” said Deputy Secretary Cipriani. “Criminal justice reforms like the Clean Slate Law, coupled with the Wolf Administration’s workforce development initiative PAsmart, are part of the bold, innovative plans that Pennsylvania needs to build the strongest workforce in the nation.”

The following 10 LWDBs received Youth Reentry Demonstration Project funds:

The Berks County Workforce Development Board (Berks WDB) – A $500,000 grant was awarded to provide educational, social, and cognitive supports to reentrant and justice-affected young adults to prepare them for success in the registered pre-apprenticeship program to Berks Connections: Rebuilding, Reentrants and Reading (R3) Prep for Young Adults.

Lackawanna Workforce Development Board – A $500,000 grant was awarded to the Lifeline to Success program to provide intensive, one-on-one case management services; adult mentoring; GED preparation and testing; occupational skills training; work experience; on-the-job training (OJT) opportunities and additional supportive services to increase employment opportunities for 75, 18 to 24-aged young adults in Lackawanna County.

Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Board (WBLV) – A $988,925 grant was awarded for the Lehigh Valley Youth Reentry Demonstration Project, to provide referrals of youth who were incarcerated or subject to the justice system, to re-engage them into education, training and employment.

Luzerne/Schuylkill Workforce Development Board – A $500,000 grant was awarded for
Project REAL (Reconnect, Engage, Advocate and Lead) to provide one-on-one mentoring and individualized services designed to alleviate barriers to employment to a minimum of 50 reentry young adults referred from the courts and other justice-involved organizations.

South Central Workforce Development Board – A $500,000 grant was awarded to implement a Youth Reentry program that uses staff, mentorship, technology and post-release engagement to serve 24 incarcerated youth between the ages of 18-24.

Southern Alleghenies Workforce Development Board – A $492,509 grant was awarded to the reSTARt Youth program to provide a platform for collaboration between workforce development services, the juvenile justice system, and service providers necessary for strategic removal of barriers faced by youth reentrants, and the vital continuum of care for successful, sustainable, gainful employment.

Southwest Corner Workforce Development Board – A $500,000 grant was awarded to the Youth Reentry Cooperative Network (YRCN), a collaborative project between the Southwest Corner Workforce Development Board and the Westmoreland-Fayette Workforce Development Board. The program will provide post-secondary education, soft-skills training, and advanced training and will serve youth ages 18-24 from Beaver, Fayette, Greene, Washington, and Westmoreland Counties who were incarcerated or were subjected to the justice system.

Three Rivers Workforce Development Board – A $527,464 grant was awarded to create a partnership between Partner4Work, Allegheny County DHS, Auberle, Allegheny County Jail Collaborative and local programs targeted at foster care young adults. The program will provide young adults with justice system involvement opportunities for targeted workforce training programs that are tied directly to employers.

Tri-County Workforce Development Board – A $500,000 grant was awarded for a youth reentry program for 30 young adults, ages 18-24 who were incarcerated or were subjected to the justice system to engage in a career path that leads to postsecondary education, advanced training, or meaningful employment.

West Central Workforce Development Board – An $800,000 grant was awarded to a youth reentry program that will conduct needs assessments to determine skill sets and training gaps, need for supportive services, and training options, as well as literacy instruction, career exploration, and mentoring. Youth participants will be placed in paid work experience or on-the job training.

The governor’s criminal justice reforms that help reentrants enter the workforce include Clean Slate, a first of its kind initiative helping those who have committed low-level offenses by removing potential roadblocks to jobs, housing, health care, and education. The Wolf Administration has also introduced A Fair-Chance hiring policy, “banning the box,” for state agencies that removes the criminal conviction question from non-civil service employment applications for agencies under the governor’s jurisdiction and eliminating driver’s license suspensions for non-driving infractions.

Specific to youth, Gov. Wolf recently announced a bipartisan initiative with the General Assembly and the Pew Charitable Trusts to establish a Juvenile Justice Task Force to assess and report on the current justice system in the state as it pertains to serving youth. As well, Gov. Wolf’s Executive Order for the Protection of Vulnerable Populations engages state agencies and stakeholders to look at how we best serve youth in the juvenile justice system.

Governor Wolf is also strengthening job training through his groundbreaking PAsmart program with a focus on skills for in-demand jobs. The governor has secured $70 million for PAsmart over two years, including $40 million for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and computer science education and $30 million for apprenticeships, career and technical education, and other job training programs.

The Youth Reentry Demonstration Project is 100 percent funded through federal money made available from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

For more information about the Youth Reentry Demonstration Project awards, visit the Department of Labor and Industry website.

To learn more about pursuing an education and career in Pennsylvania at any stage of life, visit the PAsmart website.

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