New nonprofit links arts and tech to engage unemployed and at-risk youth

This information provided by Smart Cities Council Compassionate Cities.

"We’ve simply still got too many young adults who aren’t finishing high school,” says Linda Nguyen, CEO of WorkForce Central and board secretary of the Pierce Center for Arts & Technology (PCAP), a new nonprofit in Washington State with an ambitious agenda. PCAP is affiliated with the Pittsburgh-based National Center for Arts and Technology, a division of Manchester Bidwell Corp. that helps communities provide career training and arts education to high school students, as well as unemployed and underemployed adults. It's an interesting model that other communities may want to explore. – Liz Enbysk


It used to house the Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) bookstore in Parkland, a community about 10 miles south of Tacoma, WA. A community-minded board plans to begin renovation this spring to turn the 15,500 square foot facility into a center of new opportunities for young people and adults in the region.

Those behind the effort come from the public and private sectors – with Bank of America, Franklin Pierce Schools, Tacoma Public Utilities and General Plastics among them. They're also asking the community for financial support.

“PCAT would be a welcome addition to the educational and training resources offered to low-income and underrepresented members of Pierce County,” said Geoffrey Foy, an associate provost at PLU, in a report on the effort by the school's news service.

"The Parkland community, where the center would be located, includes many residents who have not been able to access these kinds of services due to many reasons that include financial constraints and a lack of resources in this area," Foy added.

From digital media to ceramics
Pointing to research suggesting the arts can be a catalyst for at-risk students to continue academic pursuits, PCAT plans to offer classes for young people in subjects ranging from digital media to ceramics.

“We know the arts engage and inspire many young people, but these programs are being cut in a lot of our schools," says Nguyen of Workforce Central. "This is a great way to help our young adults see more for themselves."

At the same time, the center will provide opportunities for unemployed and under-employed adults, with a range of adult education and professional certification courses. PCAT points to demand for professionally trained workers in Pierce County's smaller cities and suburban communities.

"The population growth outside of Tacoma opens up business opportunities that will require skilled workers," said Mark Martinez, a PCAT board member and executive secretary of the Pierce County Building Trades Council. "The Center would be well positioned to help fill that pipeline of skilled workers."

Nguyen says providing access to arts and education can make the community better. "It’s the key to rising out of poverty and having a better life -- and that’s why this project is so exciting."

More on this topic…
Steal these ideas: 9 innovative approaches to reducing youth unemployment
UK pilot hopes to jumpstart the jobless generation's digital future
Nonprofit turns low-income wage earners into skilled IT workers – for free

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This article is from the Council's Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.

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