The Birmingham Urban League is now accepting applications for the newly established Urban Youth Empowerment Program NOW (UYEP NOW). The program is a “workforce development initiative” which will provide juvenile offenders in Jefferson County the opportunity to participate in a series of courses in GED/high school diploma preparation and job readiness training.
The program, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor and the National Urban League, is part of the Urban League’s mission to achieve social and economic equality for all racial and ethnic groups, particularly African-Americans and the urban poor. UYEP NOW is aimed at young adults who have been involved in the juvenile justice system within the past year.
“We want to give juvenile offenders a second chance and move them into situations where they can get employment to sustain themselves, to prevent reentry into the system,” Hazel Bass Germany, director of workforce development at the Birmingham Urban League, says. The program, which is free to participate in, will also assist those interested in entering a technical training program or community college.
“The grant stipulates that they want a diverse spread,” Germany says, with participants trained to enter such varied fields as healthcare, manufacturing and technology. “The grant wants [participants] to get into areas where there’s a possibility for advancement.”
The program will allow participants to move at their own pace, and Germany estimates that it could take anywhere from six weeks to four months to complete, depending upon the commitment of the individual. GED and high school diploma preparation courses will be led by an academic instructor and will cover all of the subjects found on the exams.
“There’s a push to get everybody who can become eligible to take the [GED] test this year, because the test will change next year,” Germany says. She explains that the GED will become fully computerized in 2014 and will require the ability to type a timed essay. For this reason, UYEP NOW will provide computer classes, including lessons in keyboarding and using Microsoft Office Suite.
The computer classes will also incorporate job readiness training, including computer application training and resume preparation. UYEP NOW will provide participants with mock interviews and lessons on how to dress and behave professionally while on the job. The Urban League will follow up this training by helping participants find employment.
“We have a job developer who will be out recruiting, talking with employers to see where [UYEP NOW participants] could potentially go for employment,” Germany says.
The grant that created UYEP NOW will provide funding for the program for 26 months, though Germany hopes to see the program last much longer.
“We need funding that will be sustained,” she stresses, mentioning a similar program providing classes for high school dropouts that was successful until its federal grant funding ended, forcing the Urban League to shut down the program. With a laugh, she adds, “But since this is an article about this program. I’ll end it there.”
The Birmingham Urban League is currently accepting applications for UYEP NOW and classes are anticipated to begin by the end of the month. To be eligible, participants must meet the following requirements:
–Must be age 14 and above at time of enrollment
–Were involved in the juvenile justice system within 12 months of application
–Never convicted as an adult under federal or state law
–Reside in or are returning to City of Birmingham/Jefferson County
–Demonstrated interest in UYEP NOW activities
More information about the Urban Youth Empowerment Program NOW and the Birmingham Urban League may be obtained by contacting the Urban League Workforce Development staff at (205) 326-0162.