Grant to help OWATC educate school dropouts

Jul 31 2011 - 9:57pm

OGDEN -- By this time next year, 36 high school dropouts will have high school degrees and a marketable trade to literally build up the community.

The Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College received a $1.1 million grant from the Department of Labor for a YouthBuild program that takes high school dropouts between the ages of 16 and 24 and helps them earn a GED or high school diploma and complete a construction trade course.

The students will have 10 months to complete the process and during the training, they will work in the community to build transitional housing for veterans and those displaced because of abuse.

Debra Daniels is the program manager for the OWATC program, part of a national effort that has 273 programs running in 45 states.

Daniels is working with 15 organizations to recruit students. The Department of Workforce Services, Division of Child and Family Services and Juvenile Justice System are all involved with OWATC to find high school dropouts who would be good candidates.

"It's hard to find dropouts because once they have left, where do they go?" said Christine Mayne, supervisor of Youth Services for the Department of Workforce Services.

Mayne is thrilled to be working with Daniels to recruit kids. The DWS is providing $2,000 plus books for each student.

"I am really excited for YouthBuild," she said.

Mayne believes the program will not only give the kids a chance to get an education and the skills to work in the community, but it will give them "soft skills" to be successful in society, such as when to call in and request time off, how to solve a conflict in the workplace or how to negotiate with an employer.

"So many just walk away and never come back. This will teach them how not to do that," Mayne said.

Daniels said students will spend half their day earning a GED or a high school diploma and the other half in the construction trade class to get a foundation of construction skills.

Students may earn a monthly stipend of up to $425 per month depending on performance. Daniels said the amount of the stipend is based on attendance, if they earn their diploma and how dedicated they are to the program.

Daniels said OWATC hopes to have at least 200 applicants, in order to choose students who are a good fit for the program.

"It will be an important selection process," Daniels said.

There will be personal interviews and then students will undergo a mental toughness evaluation to see who is on time and dedicated to the program, because ultimately they want all students selected to succeed and earn a diploma and a construction certificate.

The grant is a three-year grant. This year, 36 students will be selected with 36 more next year. The third year is spent tracking the students who have gone through the program and measuring their success. Daniels said OWATC plans to re-apply for the grant next year in time to start over again with the program after the three years are up.

Recruitment starts this week and will continue into August. Interested youths can apply at www.owatc.edu/youthbuild, in person on campus, or contact YouthBuild directly at 801-627-8365.

After applications have been received applicants will be called to schedule an orientation and interview.

Applicants will be invited to attend a pre-program seminar from Aug. 8 to Aug. 12. Selected students will start school Aug. 29.

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