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Creating a Youth Driven Career Center

The National League of Cities - 2009 - Award for Municipal Excellence (150,001 - 500,000)


The city of Long Beach, California worked with young people in the community and a wide variety of other stakeholder organizations to create a new youth workforce program. The program developed various methods to incorporate the opinions of young adults, increase their participation on the City’s Youth Council, and craft messages to reach at-risk young adults. Moreover, teens were included in the project development. As a result, the program was more relavent, sustainable, and driven by youth opinion.


While planning for the development of a new career center for youth, and annual projects in support of its emerging workforce, the City of Long Beach saw an opportunity to reinvent some of its core youth service strategies that combat youth disconnection from the labor market and from productive education activities. Its workforce development agency focused on opportunities to engage youth in the design and creation of physical spaces, outreach messages, collateral materials, actual products, key policy-making and critical community connections.

The City’s mayor-appointed Workforce Investment Board and its Youth Council partnered with myriad public and private organizations, such as the local school district, Job Corps, the YMCA, local businesses, service providers, and numerous young adult residents. Through creative collaboration and effective management of municipal resources, core services strategies were examined and changed to focus on the solution: a clear youth voice in the message.

The youth workforce program developed various methods to incorporate the opinions of young adults: their increased participation on the City’s Youth Council; peer crafting of messages to reach at-risk young adults; high school interior design students’ involvement in the Center’s youth-focused re-design; and development of vibrant and meaningful labor market materials in a glossy youth workforce development magazine.

At the end, the youth workforce program found itself with a much more relevant and sustainable youth-driven services strategy - as directly engaging young people increased their confidence, self-esteem, and continued involvement in collectively meeting the community’s ongoing challenges.

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Tags: Access to Services and Social Justice, Economic and Community Development, Education and Training, Youth Services

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