Mobile Hope Launches Trade School with Google

Mobile Hope, which provides services to homeless and at-risk young adults in the county, launched a trade school last week thanks to a grant from Google.

The program, “Trading Up,” backed by a $75,000 grant from the tech giant, will train young adults from 18-24 in trades including HVAC, drywall installation, auto-machinery, and IT.

“The vision is to give these kids an opportunity to learn a skill that they can take with them wherever they go, and no one can take it away from them,” Mobile Hope CEO Donna Fortier said. “So many of the kids have fallen through so many cracks.” 

The program is beginning with five clients, who will work with community partners to test out various trades, before selecting one to specialize in.

“So many of our kids, even when they were in high school, were so focused on survival. Where are they going to eat, where are they going to sleep. That they didn’t really have the luxury of thinking about their future and what they would do to earn a living wage,” Allyson Ruscitella, director of development, said. “This is a great way for them to explore the different opportunities that are out there and choose a trade that would allow them to earn a living wage.”

Students will have two mentors: one will be a life mentor, who they can confide in and trust, and the other will be a content expert who is in their desired trade.

Fortier said that what sets the program apart is how customized it is for learners.

“We consider the barriers that these kids have to deal with. Instead of 16 weeks to complete this course regardless of what’s going on in your life … this approach recognizes that and incorporates that,” she said. 

Fortier and Ruscitella said the program fills a need in the workforce. They said that as trade workers age, there aren’t enough young people preparing to fill the need. 

“We thought, you know what, we’re going to create something that helps with those barriers—the aging populations and the demand,” Fortier said. “It’s humbling for them to realize that people actually care.”

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