Marano Fellows Class of 2011

Name: Olga M. Merchán

YouthBuild USA

Location: Somerville, MA
Primary Industry Sector: Construction; Healthcare
Type of Organization: Youth and Community Development Organization

“Connecting people to occupations that required less than a four-year degree and offer family-sustaining wages. I hope to learn about strategic and efficient ways to utilize time and resources. I believe sector strategies will allow us to maximize both and create more effective and focused programs within the organization. ”

Organizational Mission: YouthBuild is a youth and community development organization which provides opportunities for low-income young people ages 16-24 to work toward their GEDs or high school diplomas, prepare for careers and post-secondary education, and serve their communities by building affordable housing. YouthBuild’s mission to unleash the potential of low-income, out-of-school young people to transform their lives and rebuild their communities rests foremost on the ability of our graduates to earn and maintain a living. Once established financially, they then have a better chance of seeking leadership roles in transforming the health and well-being of their communities.

Interest in Sector Work: One of the objectives of the YouthBuild model is to prepare its students for postsecondary education on the one hand, and well paying jobs in construction on the other, while internalizing the twin ethics of national service and leadership for social change. This model has shown successful results since the beginning of the program; however, given that the construction sector has contracted in the past few years and is not expected to grow in the foreseeable future, there is a fundamental obligation to reconsider this approach and look for alternative pathways for our students. I believe that sector strategies offer that potential.

We have identified healthcare as the sector we would like to pursue for mostly two important reasons: 1) It is a sector that is growing in many regions of the country so it will allow us to replicate our lessons learned on a national scale; and 2) it offers a plethora of entry-level occupations that are not only accessible to our students but also lead to viable careers. We hope that by learning the strategies needed to engage employers in this sector, we can prepare the students with the foundational and occupational skills that they are looking for. A sector strategy offers us the opportunity to influence the life trajectories of disconnected low-income 16 to 24 year olds and, by doing so, provide pathways for them to move out of poverty towards economically sustainable career opportunities with steady gains in occupational skills and wages.