Building a Successful, Productive Generation

Building a Successful, Productive Generation

Group News posted in on 19 July 2017| comments
audience: The Saint Paul Foundation | last updated: 19 July 2017

Guadalupe Alternative Programs (GAP) in Saint Paul is giving young people with major employment barriers the ultimate gift: pathways into careers and out of poverty. In return, graduates are becoming vital members of Minnesota's workforce.

GAP's Saint Paul program, YouthBuild, is a local chapter of the now international program with roots dating back to the 1970s. GAP helps students, who are primarily immigrants, complete their GEDs and learn a trade. They also offer other critical supports, such as job placement services, life skills training and mental health services for their many students suffering from trauma and other emotional stressors.

The local group started in 1994, first serving students up to age 19. Now they accept students up to age 24. Allen Selinski, GAP executive director, said the 2009 expansion was a response to a clear community need. “It was the recession and young people were coming to us, desperate for work. They were mostly immigrants and refugees who didn’t have a high school diploma and struggled with English. They were in short, the least employable people.”

Student and teacher in shop

Training that matches industry needs

GAP now trains 170 students annually through the program. Participants have three tracks to choose from: medical, information technology and automotive/construction. The program offers prospective wages of $17 to $20 an hour and placement rates above 90 percent. Selinski says community partners are critical to the program’s success and staff work closely with many for both training and placements, including several trade unions, Tires Plus, Apple Valley Ford, Inver Hills Community College and Cerenity Senior Care Center.

Selinski said they are considering expanding their tracks to include bank teller and barista. “All the credentials students gain are stackable. We encourage them to get out in the workforce and then build on that beginning.”

The Saint Paul Foundation has provided several grants to GAP, most recently Foundation funding helped hire a Karen case manager. Karen students comprise 80 percent of the Saint Paul’s YouthBuild students and are one of the fastest-growing immigrant groups in Minnesota.

For the future, Selinski hopes to add additional services so they can better follow up with graduated students, helping ensure continued success.

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Group details


The Saint Paul Foundation
101 Fifth Street East Suite 2400
Saint Paul, MN 55101
United States
Phone: 1 651-224-5463
Fax: 1 651-224-9502



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