New state program to spur mentorship for Merced County youth

Merced County Administration

Merced County Administration

Merced Sun Star

Merced County is participating in a new state program that officials say will help give a hand-up to disadvantaged youth, while also supporting local nonprofit organizations.

The state recently granted Merced County $3.8 million ⁠— the maximum possible award for a county of its size — to participate in the #CaliforniansForAll Youth Job Corps program. The program is part of the governor’s $100 billion California Comeback Plan.

State and county officials say the program will support youth in overcoming systemic barriers and create pipelines to lasting careers.

“This will develop a county system of internships focused on young people who are facing systemic barriers,” Merced County Director of Workforce Investment Erick Serrato said during Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

“They may have grown up in the foster care system, they may live in some of our poorer communities, they may be coming out of juvenile hall, or they may have some other barrier that makes it hard for them to be able to access this child of opportunity.”

According to the county, the overarching goal is to provide young residents with meaningful work experience in the nonprofit sector while helping nonprofits strengthen their pool of future employees.

Over the course of the two-year grant, young people will be placed with local nonprofits working on homelessness, climate issues, food scarcity, COVID-19 and other public services.

The grant will fund 111 young adults age 16 to 30 as program fellows. Participants will be connected with part-time and full-time temporary positions, earning $15-20 an hour.

The grant is also exciting for nonprofits, Serrato said. Participating nonprofits throughout the county will receive a stipend of $1,200 for each fellow mentored through the program.

“We’re asking them to dig deep and create a meaningful experience so they’re providing real mentorship, real career exploration,” Serrato said.

About 18 nonprofits are expected to participate.

With the state grant received, next steps for the program include for applications to be received from interested nonprofits. The Department of Workforce Investment will then coordinate job placement for youth from all county districts, as well as marketing and administrative functions.

The #CaliforniansForAll Youth Jobs Corps focuses on hiring youth lacking access to career-building resources. According to the state, priority will be given to applicants who are low-income, unemployed, currently in or transitioning out of foster care and are engaged with a mental health or substance abuse program, among other criteria.

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Abbie Lauten-Scrivner is a reporter for the Merced Sun-Star. She covers the City of Atwater and Merced County. Abbie has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and Public Relations from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

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