U.S. Department of Labor YouthBuild

The US Department of Labor receives an annual appropriation from Congress for the federal YouthBuild program, which it operates effectively with close attention to quality, performance outcomes, and community need. The U.S. Department of Labor announced the award of $85 million in YouthBuild grants to programs across the country to help young people struggling to reach key educational and career milestones, equip them to become successful in the workforce and be engaged in their communities.

Each YouthBuild program in the United States is operated by an autonomous non-profit or public entity that secures its own funding – a mix of public and private support. The US Department of Labor is the primary public funding source. YouthBuild USA does not directly run any local programs nor does it participate in the selection of DOL YouthBuild grantees. 

YouthBuild was first authorized as a federal program in 1992 under Subtitle D of Title IV of the Cranston-Gonzalez national Affordable Housing Act and administered by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. It was transferred at the initiative of the George W. Bush administration with unanimous consent of Congress to the US Department of Labor in 2006. 

Roughly half of the current funding for local YouthBuild programs in the United States comes from the US Department of Labor (DOL) under the federal YouthBuild program which was reauthorized within the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act passed in 2014 and designates YouthBuild as a pre-apprenticeship program model. DOL grants funds directly to the local YouthBuild program through an annual competitive process that rewards performance and prioritizes low-income communities. 

There are two ways that a local non-profit or public entity can obtain the right to use the YouthBuild name. It can win a competitive YouthBuild grant directly from DOL; or it can be licensed by YouthBuild USA as a YouthBuild program through the YouthBuild USA Affiliated Network. All local non-profit and public entities are eligible to apply to DOL and/or to apply for affiliation with YouthBuild USA. 

The DOL requires all YouthBuild grantees to raise a minimum of 25% in matching non-federal funds. Individual program grants range from $700,000 to $1.1 million and cover two years of programming with twelve months of follow up support. There are currently 156 DOL-funded YouthBuild programs in 42 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC.


DOL’s eligibility requirements for YouthBuild students focus on low-income young people who have left high school without a diploma, are exiting foster care, or have been adjudicated. There is a flexible 25% waiver in order not to exclude any applicant in need of the program’s services. 

DOL strongly encourages YouthBuild applicants to develop program proposals that include occupational skills training in other in-demand industries in addition to construction skills training. This expansion into additional in-demand industries is referred to as the Construction Plus component, and is a focus of the current Administration.   

The Construction Plus model allows YouthBuild grantees to use DOL grant funds for training in additional in-demand industries with the goal of attaining industry-recognized certifications, hands-on work experience in the industry setting, and direct entry into apprenticeships or direct hiring into these industries. Since Construction Plus began in 2012, YouthBuild grant programs have used DOL funds to provide training in diverse industries and occupations, including healthcare, information technology, hospitality and retail services, and logistics. 

YouthBuild programs licensed by YouthBuild USA that do not win one of the limited competitive grants from the DOL must raise all their funds from other public and private sources. This is difficult, and some of them go dormant or close for lack of funds when they do not receive a DOL grant. DOL receives many more qualified applications than it can fund, and virtually all local programs receive many more youth applicants than they can accept. This high demand and high need creates an urgent mandate for expanded federal funding.