Capital City YouthBuild: Beating the Odds in Hartford

What’s the probability of 16-24-year-olds feeling hope when their pasts might include incarceration, drug issues, failed academic pursuits and work at dead end jobs?  Very little is sadly the answer.  The deck is further stacked against them in Hartford, Connecticut where the overall unemployment rate has recently been hovering around 9%.  The state employment participation rates for 16-24 year olds are four times worse than those of 25-year-olds and older.1


Community Renewal Team, Inc. has put together a formula for success by launching Capital City YouthBuild in 2009 under funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  CRT has seen great success in its Capital City YouthBuild program since the inaugural class.  Despite being one of the few programs in the nation to welcome those who have been incarcerated or have substance abuse issues, 87 percent of the participants have graduated from the program.  This past August, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded a $1 million grant to enable CRT to continue operating the program.


Laying the Foundation

Lack of a high school education immediately creates an obvious handicap for a young person seeking employment.  Less that 50% of individuals in Hartford who aren’t high school graduates are employed according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (2011).


Eight out of ten Capital City YouthBuild participants (36 out of 45) had not completed high school among the first two groups enrolled in the program.  Accordingly, academic assessments and on-line high school completion, along with tutoring toward a GED or high school graduation are essential activities of the program.


CRT’s YouthBuild application packet includes a description of the program and services offered.  By signing the Application Form, each participant acknowledges their commitment “to attend classes and other activities Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., which will include studying reading, writing and math skills to help…prepare for a GED and for the construction trades, work experience in the trade areas, as well as future advanced education possibilities.”


Mental Toughness Week is designed for program orientation to check desire to be in the program and willingness and ability to work hard, follow instructions, and get along with others.  Information is covered on program rules and guidelines, including any further rules participants might like to add.


Participants have access to CRT's full range of programs and services.  Attention is focused on life skills, family dynamics, substance abuse counseling and intensive wrap around case management.


Exploring Career Paths

Capital Workforce Partners, the Workforce Investment Board for North Central Connecticut, outlines strategies as part of a Results-Based Accountability Framework to foster success including:


  • Strengthen career development and advancement approaches
  • Strengthen systems to prepare youth with work and career-readiness skills
  • Drive sector-based programs and business partnerships.2


Parallel to these strategies, linking training with specific career opportunities that can lead to job placement and advancement is a vital component of Capital City YouthBuild.  Three specific career tracks are offered, which include stipends for time spent in vocational training:


  • Those pursuing construction train with a member of the Carpenters Union and receive OSHA 10, PACT (Pre-Apprentice Certificate Training) and NCCER (National Center for Construction Education and Research) certifications.
  • The Certified Nursing Assistant program in partnership with Capital Community College. 
  • Participants interested in culinary arts acquire food safety trainings including ServSafe®, and work experience in cafeteria and restaurant settings.


Trainers are certified by the:


·         Home Builders Institute to provide Pre-Apprentice Certification Training (PACT)

·         American Red Cross to deliver CPR training

·         Connecticut Department of Labor to perform OSHA 10 training


The program also incorporates work readiness skills and employment placement.


Turning Lives Around

Of the 45 total youth enrolled in Capital City YouthBuild from 2009-2011, 31 participants have obtained initial job placements and 15 of them were re-placed in another job.  Many CRT participants also boosted themselves academically.  Fourteen youth obtained a high school diploma or GED, seven entered post-secondary education and nine entered vocational/occupational skill training programs.3


Community involvement and leadership development is also included as a significant opportunity for every Capital City YouthBuild participant.  CRT published a Capital City YouthBuild Graduation booklet highlighting personal stories from the first group of program participants.  Here are just a few of the testimonials offered on the value of the program:


“I have a son, so I want to learn all I can learn now, so when he gets of age, I can teach him as well. I just want to be someone he can look up to.”


“It’s something that can help get people off the streets,” he says. “They helped me, so let me help someone else.”


“It actually teaches you work skills, life skills, people skills, but it also taught me that the world is bigger than just the ’hood,”


When he heard about Capital City YouthBuild…the combination of on-the-job training and making money along with the opportunity to work toward his GED sounded like a perfect fit.


As stated by Lena Rodriquez, President and CEO of CRT in concluding remarks at the graduation ceremony:


Watch for these graduates to make a real difference to their communities in the coming years. They have learned much in the classroom, they have gained both life skills and occupational expertise, and they are ready to help to rebuild and revitalize the city of Hartford and beyond.4


Information Sources

1Capital Workforce Partners: Local Workforce Investment Board for North Central Connecticut, 2012-1016 Plan, p. 6.

2Ibid., p. 23.

3CRT Receives $1 Million Grant for YouthBuild Jobs Training Program, CRT Media Release, September 5, 2012.


4Ibid., p. 20.


This website is maintained by the National Association of Community Action Agencies – Community Action Partnership, in the performance of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Community Services Grant Number, 90ET0469 and 90ET0481. Any opinion, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.