YouthWorks, a program of Goodwill of Soutwestern PA (YW), as it is known today, began in 1994. The Working Together Consortium conducted a community-wide planning effort to assess the direction of economic development in the region. The study highlighted, among other issues, the need to ensure that youth are prepared for and connected to the jobs of the future. The Consortium then asked Dianna Green and Frederick Thieman to serve as co-chairs of YW to better link youth to entry-level employment opportunities. The Youth Employment Alliance chairperson, James Allen, was asked to serve as an additional co-chair to bring community-based grassroots participation to YW.
In 1999, YW became incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and remained a key advocate for at-risk youth in the area of youth workforce development. With the changing economic climate, YW shifted its service delivery strategy, offering more intensive programs directly to youth, including: AUNO, a work readiness training and life skills program for youth emancipated from the foster care system; HIRE Me, a career exploration and work readiness after-school program serving high school youth; the recently added RISE (Re-Entry Through Industry Specific Education) Project, an 8-10-week construction and facilities maintenance training and pre-apprenticeship program for out-of-school youth, created in conjunction with the Home Builders Institute (HBI), a national leader for career training in the building industry; and HIRE (Hiring Initiative to Ready future Employees), a summer employment program for participants from AUNO, HIRE Me and RISE.
Informed by three key studies in 2011 that culminated in a strategic planning process, YW Board of Directors began proactively exploring strategic alliances with several organizations to ensure YW services continue for future generations of youth. Goodwill of Southwestern PA (Goodwill of SWPA), a 501(c)(3) organization, was selected as the best fit for YW to expand and produce even better outcomes for more youth. As such, in July 2013, YW merged as a program of Goodwill of SWPA. Goodwill of SWPA’s mission is to help people improve their quality of life through work and related services. YW’s mission is to build a community solution to help young people whose potential might be overlooked to pursue employment and career development opportunities. Together, Goodwill and YW develop synergies that offer youth a complete breadth of opportunities.
Through the years, YW's goal has remained steadfast: assuring our most vulnerable youth access to career-building experiences that develop their potential and offer social and economic upward mobility. Since its inception, YW has served over 23,500 youth through career development, employment, and training services.