St. Paul, Ramsey County Partners in $24.8 Million Investments for Young Workers

At a time when desperate employers are offering signing bonuses even for seemingly menial entry-level jobs, many young people are still unable to find work. Their main obstacle? Lack of driver’s license.

With school-based driver training programs dwindling, young people are being denied many job opportunities in construction, parks maintenance and trade because they are not licensed drivers. a permit, according to a growing number of employers.

“We’ve heard it time and time again,” said Ling Becker, director of Ramsey County’s Workforce Solutions department, which plans to spend some $500,000 in city and county money on a new licensing academy. drive for workers aged 18 to 24. “We want to make sure that we work with our community partners, with a focus on young people.

The funding, which will target young people in specific career paths such as nursing or construction, will come from nearly $25 million in federal relief dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act newly designated by the city and county. for workforce initiatives.

On Wednesday, Becker joined St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough and other officials to announce the funding partnership for a dozen workforce investment programs. new and existing work, most centered on young workers. Carter said St. Paul will dedicate $15.3 million in ARPA funds and the county will match that with $9.5 million.

Under ARPA rules, the funds must be spent by the city and county by the end of 2026.

THE INITIATIVES

Among the initiatives:

  • “Learn and Earn” job training to subsidize wages, books, tuition and technology for workers ages 18 to 35 participating in job training, $14.65 million.

  • An expansion of St. Paul’s Right Track and Right Track Plus youth internships in public and private employment, $3 million.

  • An online career path and resource center for young adults, $1.5 million.

  • A “Low or No Barrier Jobs” program for the homeless, $1 million.

  • A Public Health Career Pathways program will help Ramsey County staff currently earning less than $21 an hour to pursue post-secondary education in nursing or community health, in hopes of being offered jobs in the future. county positions in these areas, or $1.1 million.

  • The “Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential” (LEAP) program, which aims to prepare young people aged 18 to 30 for the labor market after having been homeless or having been involved in the criminal justice system, $1 million .

  • A “Driver’s License Academy” that will focus on young people aged 18-24 already seeking employment in business, nursing or other designated career programs through the partners city ​​and county nonprofit, $500,000.

Becker said the licensing academy will begin a “soft rollout” on Thursday, with the goal of tracking and refining understanding of where unlicensed young workers face the greatest hurdles. “Is it the fee they have to pay to take the test, is it the tutoring, is it the time behind the wheel?”

Carter said the goal from an employer’s perspective was to break down barriers and, for young people, a shift to “thinking of their driver’s license as a work credential because that’s what it’s all about.” is “.

The lack of a driver’s license can have other repercussions. Kristy Snyder, director of the Minneapolis-based nonprofit Youthprise, said school-based driver education programs are drying up, youth advocates have noticed an increase in young workers being cited for driving without permit.

CHILD CARE AND NURSERY SERVICES

In an effort to increase child care options for families, the Ramsey County Early Childhood Academy will receive $750,000 in ARPA funds for scholarships and additional financial aid for residents seeking a a child development associate and a license for a new daycare. Ramsey County Commissioner Mary Jo McGuire was in Washington, DC on Wednesday to participate in a roundtable on the program at a White House Workforce Summit.

The city and county will spend an additional $600,000 to create an employer network to support Right Track and Right Track plus, design a city and county youth work readiness credential, and create a ‘Inclusive Workplaces’ advice for young people and employers.

An additional $250,000 will support County Case Plus, an initiative to help young people involved in foster care, the juvenile justice system, or housing and homeless services navigate career paths and connect with employers.

Affiliated School Partnerships will receive $200,000 for staff time, resources and new programs to connect schools to workforce initiatives. These efforts will include a new Workforce Barriers Removal Fund to help students who need financial assistance to access employment.