A Downtown-based nonprofit that serves at-risk youth announced Thursday that it will merge with Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
YouthWorks runs a range of job-readiness programs designed to help people ages 14 to 25 develop career plans and hone communications skills.
From high schools to group homes to those emancipated from the foster care system, YouthWorks tries to increase the likelihood that disadvantaged young people will be competitive in a daunting job market.
Stephanie Bechel, executive director of the Downtown-based YouthWorks, said the merger will let YouthWorks take advantage of Goodwill's administrative resources, allowing the agency to reach more than the 600 people it currently serves each year.
"Over time, we will be able to expand our services to serve youth throughout southwestern Pennsylvania," Ms. Bechel said.
She added that YouthWorks has served roughly 23,000 people in Allegheny County since it was founded in 1999, but currently has only seven full-time and three part-time staff members.
Ms. Bechel said the reason for the merger is not financial.
"YouthWorks is in a strong financial position; we're just looking to grow. I think Goodwill's ability to generate revenue through their stores will help us to expand our effort faster than we would be able to do on our own."
From Goodwill's perspective, the merger will allow an expansion of employment services beyond people with physical or mental disabilities, according to David Tobiczyk, Goodwill's vice president of marketing and development.
"[YouthWorks] is a very good fit with our organization," Mr. Tobiczyk said. "It allows us to serve a population we're not serving right now."
Starting July 1, YouthWorks will operate under the umbrella of Goodwill, which will offer human resources, financial management and administrative support beyond what YouthWorks can currently handle, Mr. Tobiczyk said.
Goodwill also will offer employment opportunities for those in the YouthWorks program at its 30 regional retail stores.
"We are actually facing one of the highest unemployment rates among youth since World War II," Ms. Bechel said.
"If we want to keep jobs here and keep our region's strong work ethic intact, then we need to invest in our youth so that we can keep our region productive."
Alex Zimmerman: email@example.com or 412-263-3909 or on Twitter @AGZimmerman