Pre-apprenticeship Program Expanding with Opus Foundation® Support


​Workforce development, training and preparing underemployed and unemployed individuals for career advancement and greater self-sufficiency, is one of the Opus Foundation's key areas of focus. Recently, the Opus Foundation awarded Freedom for Youth Ministries (FFYM) with a $50,000 Impact Fund grant to support the nonprofit's Freedom Construction Services program. 

FFYM was formed in 2003 when the current executive director read a series of newspaper articles about Des Moines' growing homeless teen population. FFYM served 40 youth during the first month of operation and 260 youth over the course of the first year. Today, FFYM serves more than 500 youth in grades K – 12 weekly in Des Moines and 12 additional locations throughout Iowa. 

FFYM's programming uses four pillars—faith, education, employment and leadership. FFYM offers tutoring and reading programs, after-school classes, hands-on job training and coaching, as well as life skills like money management, communications and career assessment. Program participants run Freedom Blend Coffee, a full-service coffee business where young people gain invaluable knowledge and work experience in basic accounting, management, sales, marketing and customer service. The facility also serves as a place for worship, mentoring and training for FFYM youth programs. The Opus Foundation previously funded the Student Achievement Center, which is located within Freedom Blend Coffee

The $50,000 Opus Foundation grant will support Freedom Construction Services, a pre-apprenticeship program formed in 2015 for low-income high school students and young adults interested in the building and construction trades. Due to limited projects and space, the program wasn't able to gain the traction FFYM had hoped it would – until recently. An anonymous donor purchased a 15,000-square-foot warehouse near the FFYM campus in Des Moines to become the future home of Freedom Construction Services. The Opus Foundation grant will provide capital funds for remodeling the warehouse into a functional employment training facility with staff offices, training rooms, material and tool storage space and trade-specific training stations. Several local industry professionals, including members of Master Builders of Iowa, Home Builders Association of Iowa and Build Iowa, will be contributing in-kind hours to help keep remodeling costs down.

“From both the student and industry perspectives, there's demand for the program," said Mark Nelson, executive director of Freedom for Youth Ministries. “On the student side, we have young people who aren't candidates for college but have an interest in the trades. And on the construction industry side, there's a shortage of workers and superintendents are in need of skilled labor."

The program will teach basic skills in each respective trade for six months to two years, depending on the needs and interests of the students. There will also be training in professionalism, financial literacy, career preparedness and barrier reduction. 

“We are delighted to receive this significant grant from Opus," said Nelson. “It's exactly what we need to move forward and expand the program, helping break the generational poverty cycle and equip these young people for long-term employment." 

FFYM plans to hire a staff member in 2018 to develop the curriculum and teach courses, which are slated to begin in early 2019.

The Opus Foundation is building community for a better tomorrow by supporting projects and programs that make our communities better places to live, work and raise families through grants to nonprofit organizations in the areas of early childhood education, youth development, workforce development, community revitalization and pressing/emerging needs. Read more about the Foundation's work.

Thanks to multiple associates for noticing some safety errors in the image we originally had accompanying this blog post. It’s great to see that associates are thinking Safety First!