Opportunity Youth Pilot Opportunity:

Hartford’s population is a quite young, with a median age of 31. There are more than 6,000 “opportunity youth:” those ages 16-24 without a high school diploma or not in school and un/under-employed. Twenty-two percent of young people between the ages of 18 and 24 have not finished high school. Unemployment among young people is two to three time higher than the general population rate and among people of color unemployment is often twice as high.

Billings Forge Community Works has run a successful culinary job training program since 2009 for individuals with multiple barriers to employment. The University of Connecticut will be moving their Hartford branch to downtown, beginning in late 2017. The University will utilize much of the public Library for classroom and programming space. This positions our downtown Kitchen at the Library as a gathering spot for students, faculty, and local residents.

The combination of a new market of college students at our downtown café and the need of young people to find jobs are the impetus of our new job training pilot. We will expand our café hours into the evening with an Opportunity Youth café, run by and for youth. We have identified two training pathways: one for customer service and one for entrepreneurship. We will focus on Hartford city opportunity youth (18-24) who are not in school and not working.

Working with leading local youth agency, Our Piece of the Pie (OPP), we will build on their existing program and successful methodology to create pathways to careers for opportunity youth. OPP brings the case management services that youth need to navigate a complex world and provide tools for success. OPP will screen candidates for real interest in the training field and work with them after the on-the-job training to find internships and place them in jobs or post-secondary education.

Our two organizations are seeking funding to fund this initiative and to empower our city’s youth. If you are interested in finding out more about this work or to support the pilot, please contact Cary Wheaton at Cary@billingsforgeworks.org