A high school diploma and a job are two of the most important milestones on a young person’s path to adulthood. Yet, Americans ages 16 to 24 are experiencing unemployment rates that are at least twice the national average, putting many at risk of not achieving economic self-sufficiency. Against this backdrop, there are millions of U.S. jobs available right now that employers need to fill, but applicants lack the required education, certificate or skills.
Located in West Oakland, California, Civicorps was founded 34 years ago to help young men and women ages 18 to 26, who are disconnected from work and school, to earn their high-school diploma, gain job skills and enter family-sustaining careers through their charter school and two social enterprises – Civicorps Environmental Management and Civicorps Recycling.
In 2014, the Oakland City Council granted Civicorps Recycling, in partnership with Waste Management, Inc., a landmark garbage franchise agreement – the only contract of its kind to include a nonprofit job-training program. Called the Teamster Union Apprenticeship Career Pathway, this innovative, multistep program helps young adults from low-income and under-resourced communities to earn their high school diploma and, then, enter a recycling pre-apprenticeship training program. Once students earn their Class B driver’s license, they are eligible to enter a union apprenticeship at Waste Management and, after two years, to obtain a Teamster truck driving job with a starting salary of $70,000 and the opportunity to earn a pension.
“Many of the young people who come to Civicorps have faced extreme barriers in their lives, including poverty, homelessness and incarceration, yet all have a determination to turn their lives around and succeed. The Trade, Transportation and Utilities industry is one of the few that will hire youth who have prior court involvement,” said Alan Lessik, Executive Director for Civicorps. “Our enterprise has quadrupled in size from servicing 273 small-business accounts to 1,039 in just three years, helping us to provide resilient youth an opportunity for real socioeconomic advancement. We expect continued growth, making the Teamster Union Apprenticeship Career Pathway a successful model for implementing replicable job-training programs in cities across the country.”