With youth unemployment soaring to over 20 percent, the Department of Labor has announced awards to 183 community groups that help out-of-school youth earn their high school diplomas and get training in the construction industry.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced the award of $114 million for these groups as part of the department’s YouthBuild program. Young people who participate in these community service programs will learn new skills by helping to renovate public housing.

Many of the participants in the YouthBuild program have been in the juvenile justice system or foster care programs. Often they struggle with school, and many have dropped out. The goal of the program is to provide academic and occupational skills training through community service opportunities.

The Labor Department program also emphasizes “green” building techniques, retrofitting existing homes with energy efficient upgrades and helping to make communities sustainable and environmentally friendly.

In a statement last week announcing the award of the grants, Secretary Solis said, “President Obama and I are delighted to be able to increase funding for this promising program, which does so much for youth and their communities.”

Training and education programs affiliated with charities, faith-based groups, colleges and universities, and government entities have been designated to receive the federal funds.

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