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Workforce Connection program targets high school students who need help to graduate

There’s good news for high school seniors who need supplemental support to graduate with their 2013 class. There’s just as much good news for individuals who want to re-engage their education and pursue a GED diploma.

A resource is available that can help achieve these educational goals and enhance the chance for placement in post secondary education and/or employment. In fact, approximately 1,000 young adults in Southern Nevada are taking advantage of these opportunities. The good news is there is availability for about 1,000 more Clark County young adults.

How? Workforce Connections, a Labor Department workforce investment board, is the Southern Nevada workforce board. The mission is to establish dynamic partnerships with employers and the community to connect employment opportunities, education and job training. With respect to Clark County youth, the goal of Workforce Connections’ Youth Council is to champion youth education, training and employment.

Accordingly, there are three objectives to achieve this mission:

1) Increase youth educational attainment rates;

2) Engage and connect youth with career paths and employment training opportunities relevant to Gov. Brian Sandoval’s identified industry sectors; and

3) Expose youth to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills, training and career opportunities.

As the Southern Nevada workforce investment board, Workforce Connections funds Workforce Investment Act youth programs, which provide workforce development services. These services assist low-income, at-risk youth in achieving their educational and employment goals.

To be eligible for these services, an individual must be 14 to 21 years old; financially in need of assistance; and meet one barrier to education or employment:

nu2002deficient in basic literacy skills

nu2002adjudicated

nu2002drop-out

nu2002homeless

nu2002in foster care

nu2002pregnant or parenting

nu2002require additional assistance to complete an educational program or obtain and retain employment.

Services are aimed at many objectives, including tutoring, study skills training, alternative secondary services, work experiences, occupational skills training, mentoring, supportive services, leadership development, comprehensive guidance and counseling, and follow-up services. These services are provided to youth who are in school as well as out of school.

In-School Youth

An estimated 23,900 Nevada students dropped out of the class of 2010 . Lacking a high school diploma, these individuals will be far more likely to spend their lives periodically unemployed, on government assistance or cycling in and out of the prison system. .

At the beginning of the 2012 academic year, approximately 10,000 high school seniors were not on pace to graduate. Of this number, 7,500 were only one or two classes short of credit requirements or completing the High School Proficiency Exam. (See list of challenges and outcomes.)

How were these outcomes achieved? One of the contributing factors to the previous year’s increased graduation rate was the Graduation Advocate Initiative. Its objective is to help students overcome obstacles in the pursuit of completing their education.

It is a collaborative effort among the Clark County School District, United Way of Southern Nevada, MGM Resorts International and Workforce Connections. It is focused on improv ing high school graduation rates by connecting the Las Vegas business community with students through one-on-one mentoring toward graduation, continuing education and career development.

The in-school youth program targets specific high school seniors who are off-track for graduation because of credit deficiencies, inability to pass the High School Proficiency Exam and/or facing barriers to employment or education. Services available via the Graduate Advocate Initiative include assistance in paying for credit retrieval courses, paid work experiences, assistance with college planning and the free application for federal student aid, and mentoring.

The Graduate Advocate Initiative has assisted students in overcoming barriers toward high school completion. For the 2012- 13 academic year, HELP of Southern Nevada and Nevada Partners Inc. are the two primary Workforce Connections in-school partner agencies providing initiative services. They provide services to 14 Clark County high schools :

nu2002HELP provides services at Bonanza, Chaparral, Cimarron-Memorial, Clark, Del Sol, Sunrise Mountain and Basic .

nu2002NPI targets services at Canyon Springs, Cheyenne, Desert Pines, Mojave, Rancho, Valley and Western.

For further information regarding the Graduate Advocate Initiative at these high schools, visit HELP of Southern Nevada at www.helpsonv.org or Nevada Partner Inc. at www.nevadapartners.org. You can also visit the Clark County School District Partnership site at www.partnership.ccsd.net.

Out-of-School Youth

Out-of-school youth are another key population served by Workforce Connections youth programs. These include individuals who have dropped out of high school or have received a secondary diploma or its equivalent but are basic skills deficient, unemployed or underemployed. The goal is to re-engage individuals toward educational and employment objectives.

Specific efforts are directed at re-enrolling dropouts in high school, enrolling youth in credit retrieval recovery activities leading to a high school diploma or enrolling them in alternative education programs. For youth with a secondary diploma or its equivalent (i.e., GED) emphasis is placed on improving their basic skills.

For all youth, the focus is placed on acquiring educational credentials and/or occupational skills training and a nationally recognized industry certificate that will assist in employment placement.

Out-of-school services include paid work experiences, employment and post secondary education assistance. In addition, the Workforce Connections’ “What’s It Mean to Be Green” curriculum, provides youth with an introductory exposure to STEM fields.

There are five Workforce Connections 2012 Workforce Investment Act funded partners providing services to the community’s out-of-school youth. These include GNJ Family Life Center, HELP of Southern Nevada, Latin Chamber of Commerce Community Foundation, Nevada Partners Inc. and Southern Nevada Children’s First.

To learn more about Workforce Connections out-of-school youth workforce development programs, visit www.nvworkforceconnections.org. Follow the quick links “Funded Partner List” and then click on “Youth.”

Workforce Connections is located at 7251 W. Lake Mead Blvd., Suite 200. For more information, visit the website at www.nvworkforceconnections.org or contact a member of the staff at 702-638-8750.

Ricardo Villalobos is youth department director at Workforce Connections.

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