Opportunities that equip young people with the tools necessary to succeed in the workplace have become all too rare—and in Riverside, we are ready to change that. The recent $4.4 million grant we received from the state’s Californians For All program is essential to initiate our Youth Jobs Corps program. Last week, I met with the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Treasury Wally Adeyemo, California Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday and representatives from community organizations who work with upcoming youth—organizations such as Tree People, C3 Initiative and Lighthouse to Hope. Part of this invaluable discussion was the youth who discussed the importance and challenges of finding career pathways in our city. This program is made possible because of the positive partnership between the federal government, the state government, and local government—something I pride myself on having spent the last two decades working at every level of government.
Riverside has the grant money in hand and we are ready to begin building the program for Riversiders between the ages of 16-30 years old. Over the course of the next month, I will partner with the City Council to decide how we want this program to work for Riverside youth. As part of the program, participants will receive training and work in areas that impact the community, such as reducing food insecurity, the ongoing work of COVID response and coordination—both now and for future pandemics and disasters—and furthering climate resiliency by obtaining skills like coding, tech programming, and STEM learning.
Riversiders have always been empowered by reinventing our economy through arts, industry, and innovation, and this is no different. The Youth Jobs Corps is a $185 million statewide program that will create jobs for underserved and low-income youth across California—and many will be those living in our own neighborhoods.
Tightening our scope of who this program aims to help, we will focus on the needs of young people who have aged-out of the foster care system. More than 23,000 children age-out of the U.S. foster care system every year. Unfortunately, after reaching the age of 18, approximately 80% of foster care youth have some type of experience with homelessness—whether it be couch-surfing, living in their cars, or being on the streets. We can directly connect this to a lack of job opportunities. National trends show that only 57% of those formerly in the foster care system have a job within the first five years of their adulthood. Riverside City College and other entities have sought to change this and have been hard at work in this space for years. This boost in funding is just what we need to make progress.
This program will enable us to create pathways for our youth to enter the local workforce and have a prosperous career in Riverside with the skills gained locally.
The reality is, in order to end poverty and prevent homelessness, we must be on the offense. For too long we have worked almost exclusively on the defense, and while that will not end with the onset of this program, it will allow us to chip away at ineffective defense-focused strategies.
By providing job training and opportunities for local youth, we are ensuring a brighter future for generations of Riversiders. I look forward to sharing more on this exciting program as we approach the official launch.