“Wilmington’s Future Builders” (WFB) program is a partnership between the city of Wilmington and the New Castle County Vocational Technical School District. It kicked off last summer and is seeing success with 20 participants. The program is a component of Mayor Mike Purzycki’s Neighborhood Redevelopment Plan. This plan has a focus on improving city neighborhoods and utilizing local and minority-owned businesses to help build affordable housing.
Mayor Purzycki and superintendent of the school district, Dr. Joseph Jones, celebrated the early success of the program at a single-family home, which participants in the WFB program were helping to rehabilitate.
The WFB program has a specific focus on people between the ages of 16 and 24. The program connects mentor employers from the Neighborhood Redevelopment Plan with these young people who are often disconnected from school or work. Participants are paid $12-15/hour to participate in the WFB training program, in which they learn construction-based skills. From mid-July 2022 to this February, participants earned more than $55,000 in wages.
Mayor Purzycki was impressed with the progress of the program, stating, “We want all of our young people to be successful, and participants in this initiative most certainly will be as they learn to take on more and more responsibility in a work-like setting and acquire the skills that will enable them to begin new careers in the construction industry.”
Superintendent Dr. Jones discussed the vision and intention of the program, “We spoke of purpose and opportunity and what that would look like for someone. To give them the chance to be a part of revitalizing and building their very own community. The program is about community and everyone sharing the responsibility to help develop, grow, and educate our students. Our goal from the beginning was to transform students’ lives and that is happening one day at a time.”
Howard Vo-Tech student and WFB participant Darius Vialva spoke about his experience, “This program has helped me out a lot and given me the chance to be myself. I’ve had a lot of changes over the past year and thanks to this program I’m not the same person I was even a couple of months or a year ago. I’ve met some really great people who’ve been really kind to me. I’ve been staying off the streets, keeping myself busy and learning new things along the way.”
The district launched the WFB program in 2022 with an American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Grant from the City of Wilmington totaling about $295,000. They will receive approximately another $295,000 in additional ARPA grant funding to support the program for 2023.