By Allie Ouendag
Grand Rapids Community College will receive a $1.18 million grant from the United States Department of Labor to help fund a new Jobs Corps Scholar Program to help guide students back to work.
Despite United States unemployment levels rising historically during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jobs Corps Scholar Program is looking to advance young adults facing challenges to success in gaining in-demand job skills, educational opportunities, career advising.
“Our goal is to help people prepare for careers, but also for them to have resources and skills to be successful long after graduation,” stated Julie Parks, GRCC’s executive director of Workforce Training in a press release. “We have tremendous partners among West Michigan employers and community groups, and we appreciate the support and confidence of the U.S. Department of Labor to make this happen.”
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014, through which the Jobs Corps Scholar Program is supported, had a main objective to support at-risk youth in job development. GRCC was one of two colleges in the state and one of 20 in the nation to be awarded the grant.
“The Department of Labor is constantly searching for new and innovative ways to deliver our programs more effectively,” stated Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training John Pallasch in a news release from the Department of Labor. “The Scholars program will engage our community college, HBCU (historically black colleges and universities), and TCCU (tribally controlled colleges and universities) partners to provide more opportunities to young adults to access the training and instruction they need to be successful in today’s job market.”
Around 80 students ages 16 to 24 will be selected to participate in the 12-month career technical training program. GRCC will work in conjunction with community partners to identify young adults in the local area that have faced severe challenges such as homelessness.
“GRCC will play an essential role in West Michigan emerging from the coronavirus crisis,” GRCC President Bill Pink stated. “Our economy will be strongest when everyone has opportunities to contribute and succeed. I’m proud this program will help people overcome obstacles and gain skills that can lead to rewarding careers, but also can transform their lives.”
The program will consist of 12 months of career-focused training, individualized to particular students’ needs and goals, along with GRCC’s Fast Track academic program, a three-week learning lab geared towards increasing math and reading skills. This will be followed by a year of career counseling services working with GRCC partners to help further aid students in finding dependable jobs.
“As we look towards defeating coronavirus and reopening our economy, the Job Corps Scholars Program provides an innovative way to prepare at-risk youth for participation in the job market,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia stated. “Combining job training, classroom education, and employment counseling will give participating young adults an opportunity to excel.”