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In a Tough Economy, Corps Provide Crucial Work Experience for Young Adults

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By Hannah Traverse, The Corps Network

After dropping out of high school his junior year, Luis Gaeta of Fresno, California quickly realized that the working world can be a harsh place for a young person without marketable skills or a diploma. At the age of 19, he was already burnt out from the stress of juggling three part-time jobs. To make matters worse, Luis also had to deal with an unreliable car and insecure housing. With a child on the way, Luis knew he could not maintain such a hectic lifestyle, but he didn't know where to turn.

Fortunately, Luis discovered the Fresno Local Conservation Corps. With the help of the Corps, Luis finished his graduation requirements, learned parenting skills, gained valuable job experience in a variety of trades, and enrolled in college. Luis is a success story, but he is not alone. Every year, some 27,000 diverse young Americans find the pathway to career and life success through Corps: youth development programs that prepare participants for the workforce by engaging them in educational opportunities and service projects focused on protecting the environment and enhancing communities. The book Join the Crew: Inspirational Stories of Young Adults in America's Service and Conservation Corps profiles over 60 of these young men and women who, like Luis, found a new outlook on life by enrolling in one of the country's 127 Youth Conservation Corps.

As America recovers from the Great Recession, Corps programs are more important than ever. While nearly all of us have felt the effects of a slow economy, nobody has suffered more in the job market than young people, ages 16 to 24. Even today, the youth unemployment rate hovers around 16 percent; more than double the overall unemployment rate. Unable to find stronger opportunities, older and more experienced job seekers are taking the entry-level positions that, in better times, generally went to teens and young adults. While older employees might turn to these kinds of positions to simply makes end meet, entry-level jobs offer younger employees something even more valuable than a steady income: they offer an entrance into the workforce and the chance to build marketable skills. When these kinds of jobs are scarce, young people can still make money and find solid footing in the workforce by joining Corps.

In Join the Crew you will be introduced to young people whose Corps experiences helped them avoid the hardships of being young and inexperienced in a tight job market. You'll meet Aisha Dorsey, a young woman in Baltimore, Maryland who after being laid off from a good job at a nonprofit, found little satisfaction in part-time retail positions. When she joined Civic Works, Baltimore's Service Corps, Aisha received OSHA safety training and took courses in bio-hazard management. With these credentials, Aisha started her own environmental remediation company. The book also profiles people like JR Daniels, a young man who turned to The Sustainability Institute, a Corps in Charleston, South Carolina, after struggling to find employment after his release from prison. With training from the Corps, JR became a certified building performance professional and now operates his own home weatherization company.

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The young people profiled in Join the Crew have different backgrounds and life circumstances, but they all enrolled in Corps to improve their résumés by gaining hands-on job training. As the book demonstrates, Corps can help anyone - from high school drop-outs, to college graduates, to people with disabilities, to veterans, to ex-convicts - find the support and skills needed for a rewarding future.

Join the Crew is a publication of The Corps Network, the national association of service and conservation Corps. It will be available for free download on Amazon.com Friday, October 4, 2013 and Saturday, October 5, 2013.