Andy Atkinson/Mail Tribune Larry Licato asks Isabella Eason and Isaiah Sargent to repair an air conditioning unit at Youth71 Five’s VoTech store in Medford.
Medford City Council approves funds for 71Five VoTech to acquire land for another building
Before becoming the inspiration for one of the world’s major religions, Jesus was trained by Joseph as a carpenter. He also seemed to have a knack for building relationships.
71Five VoTech, a vocational program under the auspices of 71Five Youth Ministries in Medford, similarly tries to help young people learn a trade and find work in a trade and build relationships.
To help expand this effort, Medford City Council recently approved a Community Development Block Grant funding agreement with Youth 71Five to purchase a 0.62 acre site at 116 Almond St., which will is located within walking distance of its existing training facility. .
Of the $279,500 grant, $270,000 is for land purchase and the remaining $9,500 is for an environmental site review required by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The 40ft by 100ft structure to be built on the site will provide four store bays, a classroom and offices. Adjacent to the building will be a fenced work space for construction projects and off-street parking.
The real estate transaction should be finalized within the next month.
VoTech provides mentorship and job training for young people aged 16 to 24. This includes training in construction, aviation, automotive, and a variety of other industries.
There is a pre-apprenticeship program, more specific vocational training and placement support once students have reached the point where they are considered ‘ready for apprenticeship’.
The program also works to address what it calls “relational poverty” that participants might face, said Bud Amundsen, executive director of Youth 71Five Ministries.
Amundsen said “relational poverty” refers to someone not having a support system. They grew up with no one in their lives to teach them how to do various things, including how to behave when looking for work.
Without knowledge that will help them find jobs, many young people who successfully complete vocational training may end up not being able to pursue employment opportunities.
“They couldn’t take that step,” Amundsen said. “They would have no idea how to handle themselves.”
The program also has a case manager to help youth enrolled in the program learn the soft skills needed to do well on the job – and in life.
“We teach them how to build a birdhouse, but we also teach them how to use a saw, a tape measure,” said VoTech coordinator Larry Licato. “They learn to use the equipment.”
Licato further explained that job skills can also be useful at home, to help family and friends as well as employers, and be widely applied to solve a myriad of problems.
Andy Atkinson/Mail Tribune Larry Licato talks about an electric vehicle students built at Youth71 Five’s VoTech store in Medford.
A group of young people participating in the program spent a morning last week learning how small air conditioners work.
“Before coming here, I didn’t see a future for myself,” said 18-year-old Isaiah Sargeant. “They helped me find him.”
Sargeant said he had been homeless for “a very long time” before moving in with his grandparents. After spending some time living with his girlfriend, he went to the VoTech dorm, which provides housing for seven homeless students in the program.
Sargeant’s grandfather made him interested in automobiles. He had also considered focusing on construction, but the program allowed him to “find out what I really, really want to do,” he said.
Isabella Eason, 15, is determined to become a welder. Licato said Eason was “way beyond her mature age” – a big reason she was allowed into the program early.
She attends the Medford Online Academy, which does not offer soldering, and she wants to continue her training at Rogue Community College once she completes her skills with VoTech.
Eason’s first hands-on experience with welding was when he was 10 or 11 years old. A friend of his brother let him try.
“I immediately fell in love with it,” she said. “It’s very clear that’s what I was supposed to do.”
VoTech’s acquisition of the new building would provide much-needed additional space for the program as well as the ability to expand the program’s offerings.
A city staff report on the grant written for city council outlines why council members might support it. Helping VoTech grow will provide “more opportunities for the younger generation in the community to become self-sufficient through non-traditional higher education and workforce readiness.”
It would also “strengthen relationships with technical training providers and opportunities to develop the construction workforce,” the report says.
Land purchase assistance helps achieve some of the goals identified in the city’s 2020-2024 Consolidation Plan, which is used to decide whether a business should receive funds from CDBG.
Goal 3 of this plan states that the city will help some residents – including those with low to moderate incomes and special needs – to “become self-sufficient by increasing the availability and accessibility of essential support services.”
And Goal 5 is to “pursue community and economic development efforts that support or enhance housing development, economic mobility, small business ownership, economic stability and community economic vitality.”
A rental home on the property will remain occupied and the organization will be the owner, the report said.
Amundsen said the program is looking for additional volunteers and instructors. For more details on volunteering, teaching, or enrolling as a student in this free program – and to find out more about the rest of the program’s offerings – see www.71five.org/.
Contact reporter Terri Harber at [email protected] or 541-776-4468.