Living-Wage Job Offers Direction, Hope to Troubled Youth
Youth and education became a focus of the Spokane Alliance several years ago, as Alliance institutions became aware of the detrimental trends occurring in the youth population and a 38% dropout rate in Spokane Schools.
Hopping from job to job, Joe Costin was one of my young people in Spokane, who found it difficult to settle into anything he found very worthwhile or supporting after high school. "I worked for a labor ready place, I just couldn’t find my niche,” Joe said.
Too many of Spokane’s youth had similar or much more extreme experiences as Joe, costing our society untold amounts in social services spending and in human potential.
Not having a strong sense of direction, Joe worked jobs digging ditches and his wages often peaked at a meager $12 an hour. Working part-time shifts throughout the day, at 25 Joe had to move back in with his parents. Unfortunately, Joe’s experiences are too common with the thousands of the students who do not graduate or graduate unprepared.
Finally, six years ago Joe found the apprenticeship, but Joe’s movement into a rewarding career with a future took some time.
“I worked my whole butt off for like ten years,” Joe said.
Even once Joe discovered the Spokane Alliance-created apprenticeship, his struggle for a better life was not over. Never a strong test taker and being out school for a long period of time, Joe needed a tutor in order to make the grade in the apprenticeship program.
“Most people take a test in an hour, it takes me a couple sometimes,” Joe said.
To help develop young people with the skills and support they need to be successful, the Spokane Alliance secured over 13,000 signatures to put a major initiative on the November 2010 ballot, called the Children’s Investment Fund. The fund would help support four primary areas: early learning, mentoring, childhood abuse and neglect, along with before and after school programs. For Joe, additional support and guidance could have given him an earlier chance to get involved in a career he found rewarding.
“If only there was somebody there to say something to them or point them in the right direction,” Joe said.
Within this year Joe will receive his Journeymen’s card, an uphill, but worthwhile achievement.