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Public works internships teach a trade and skills participants carry with them through life, whether they stay on with the county or not.
The Los Angeles County Youth Opportunity Program aims to break the cycle of youth incarceration and recidivism before adulthood by creating employment pathways for those in Probation Department custody.
Intended to be a replicable model for other jurisdictions, YOP focuses on “transitional youth” ages 17 to 19 coming out of youth camps to take on a paid internship with Public Works.
Following the experience, youth can seek permanent employment with that department or others in Los Angeles County.
“I think the program is giving back more to us than it is to the kids because one of the neat things to come out of this is that we’ve actually asked four folks within our department to be mentors and volunteer their time to mentor youth,” Mark Pestrella, Public Works director, says in this California State Association of Counties video.
Youth in the program learn a trade and a skill they can take with them, working with power tools and hand tools, as well as communication skills.
A structured work environment teaches the interns accountability.
“Moving forward, we’ve just scratched the surface,” says Jesus Corral, the Probation Department’s senior director. “We all realize that the outcome will be safer communities assisting young people that are really the future of L.A. county.”
Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.