The Job Council has been awarded nearly $700,000 for its YouthBuild program for the next two years, allowing 29 high school dropouts to finish their education and get construction training while working on low-income housing in the area.

The Job Council has been awarded nearly $700,000 for its YouthBuild program for the next two years, allowing 29 high school dropouts to finish their education and get construction training while working on low-income housing in the area.

The grant is part of $114 million given to 183 community groups in the country by the U.S. Department of Labor, and it includes $47 million of stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The grants are "very competitive" and go to workforce-investment boards, faith-based and community groups, and local and nonprofit housing development agencies, said Sheri Stratton, youth program manager for the Job Council.

The local YouthBuild program is open to "at risk" high school dropouts age 16 to 24 who make a commitment to the two-year program. Participants get a stipend while they learn.

Those interested may call the Job Council at 776-5100 to be screened for a weekly Tuesday orientation and a two-week challenge and assessment, she said.

The funds support the Job Council's partnerships with the Rogue Valley Community Development Program, which provides a crew leader, and Rogue Community College, which handles general equivalency diploma instruction, she noted.

One of the projects slated for two years starting in October is Verde Village on Nevada Street in Ashland, she said. The program applied for a $1.2 million grant to cover three years, with the third year being follow-up on participants, Stratton said.

Youths chosen for the program usually have been in the juvenile justice system, are aging out of foster care and are high school dropouts, said the Department of Labor in a news release. The program aims to develop leadership skills and community service experience, while learning "green," energy-saving building techniques likely to be in demand in the near future, it added.

In Oregon, three other organizations, in Portland, Bend and Corvallis, got similar amounts, according to a news release by the Department of Labor. The DOL plans to do random control trials to evaluate the program and its effect on youth.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.