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Opportunity Youth Initiative

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“Our COVID-19 regional recovery strategy connects the most vulnerable and impacted communities to job opportunities available in Port-related industries.  Underserved youth need jobs more than ever now, not just to begin developing their own careers but to support their families,” said Commissioner Stephanie Bowman.  “At the same time, employers face unprecedented economic and operational challenges, this Port initiative and our partners can help lower those barriers for nearly 200 youth eager to work in Port-related industries.”

The COVID-19 global pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to our entire region, and the communities the farthest from opportunity are experiencing the most harm. In our region, workers with a high school degree or equivalent education, between the ages of 16 and 24, living in south Seattle and the south King County area, and workers of color have the highest number of unemployment claims per capita.

In response to the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on youth of color in our region, the Port created the Opportunity Youth Initiative. Beginning in July 2020, the Port partnered with four local non-profit organizations – Seattle Goodwill, Partner in Employment, Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, and Seattle Parks Foundation – to provide youth of color and low-income youth with professional training and short-term employment opportunities in 2020. 

The Opportunity Youth Initiative invested $1.5 million into the community. The program provided nearly 200 youth with paid learning opportunities designed to build skills to succeed in the workplace, create learning opportunities that connect young people to a long-term career path in a port-related industry, strengthen community, and support young people and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of the 196 youth that participated in the Opportunity Youth Initiative, 78 percent were between the ages of 16-19, 22 percent were between the ages of 20-24, 93 percent identified as Black, Indigenous, or people of color, and 32 percent identified as women. Additionally, participants shared the following in a post-program survey:

  • 89.5 percent learned new skills to help them be successful in finding a job
  • 80.6 percent gained an understanding of their future career and/or educational goals and how to reach them
  • 86.5 percent felt more knowledgeable about job opportunities in the industry (aviation, maritime, environmental, green jobs, or construction)

The young people who participated in this program are truly a bright spot and a hopeful inspiration during 2020 - a year that has meant pain and struggle for so many. With ties to all of Washington’s key economic sectors, the Port stands uniquely positioned to help lead our region’s economic recovery, and this is one example of how the Port is helping to lead that recovery by centering equity and providing opportunities and training for those who have historically been left behind.

Partnering Organizations

Partner in Employment

Partner in Employment (PIE) works to guarantee the long-term economic stability of newly arrived refugees and immigrants in King County by providing tailored assistance in language acquisition, housing stabilization, workforce entry, and job training in higher-wage industries.

PIE, in partnership with Forterra and Mid-Sound Fisheries Enhancement Group, employed 33 youth of color in South Seattle and South King County. The youth employed through this program worked at job sites located within the City of Tukwila Parks, City of Burien Parks, and the City of Seattle Parks to conduct park forest restoration. Participants also work along the Green River on the City of Auburn’s Park properties engaging in salmon habitat restoration.

Seattle Goodwill

Seattle Goodwill is a non-profit organization founded in 1923. They currently operate five job training centers, 24 retail stores, and over 40 donation sites in King, Snohomish, Skagit, Whatcom, and Kitsap County. They employ over 2,000 people in our region.

Through their Youth Maritime Program, Youth Aerospace Program, and Youth at Work Program, Seattle Goodwill employed 70 youth, developing their skills in areas such as: STEM, native marine life, environmental sustainability, and shipping repair and maintenance. Participants also received guided in-person and virtual industry tours, career readiness workshops, Aerospace OSHA-10 certification, and had opportunities to learn from industry experts. 

Seattle Parks Foundation

Seattle Parks Foundation brings community leaders, donors, and public partners together to create a thriving, accessible, and connected system of public space for the health and happiness of all people.

Seattle Parks Foundation partnered with Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition and Friends of Georgetown History and Industry (FoGHI) to provide 17 youth with internships and training for green job careers. The training covered topics like historic preservation, environmental and economic health and well-being, and habitat restoration. Additionally, FoGHI interns created a powerful video about the history, struggles, and resilience of the Georgetown neighborhood. 

Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle

Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle (ULMS) was established in 1930 to become one of approximately 90 affiliates of the National Urban League. Today, ULMS implements its mission within its Seattle/King County service area through advocacy, direct programming, community outreach, and coalition building in five major pillars of focus: housing, education, workforce development, health, and policy.

ULMS, along with Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Employment for Women (ANEW) and the Low-Income Housing Institute (LIHI), educated and mentored 76 youth to receive hands-on construction readiness training, preparing them for a living-wage career in the construction trades. Their youth interns built tiny cottages for the homeless. This project had an immediate impact by creating shelter for unhoused people, and in the long run, this project added skilled labor and diversity to the construction trades workforce, which underrepresents people of color. 

Related to Opportunity Youth Initiative

Documents for Opportunity Youth Initiative

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