Government Program Combines Academics, Drone Building for Refugees

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

The city of Utica, New York has been awarded $2 million from the Department of Labor to be put toward teaching young refugees how to build drones during a summer jobs program.

Close to 400 refugees currently living in the city will be offered part-time summer jobs through the program in addition to tutoring in both math and English. Those with the strongest academic performance will participate in a drone building challenge that will take place during the school year while also continuing with the work and tutoring.

Students between the ages of 14 and 15 will learn how to design a drone and will then build their own in the lab at Mohawk Valley Community College. The school is home to an award-winning drone studies program, writes Rachel Stoltzfoos for The Daily Caller.

"It was just a population we chose to target," Alice Savino, executive director of the area Workforce Development Board that applied for the grant, said about the decision to direct the funds specifically to refugees. "These kids are here, and they need help."

The portion of the program focusing on drones was introduced in an effort to help some of the local refugees later find work in the drone industry. Savino went on to say that the market for these skills exists due to businesses that are testing drones at a nearby U.S. Air Force base.

"The prime focus will be refugee youth in the city," the grant application abstract reads. "About 1 in 6 Uticans is a refugee from another nation. State data shows this group has the highest dropout rate, lowest college-ready rate in the city."

According to a Goldman Sachs report put out earlier in the month, the global drone market is expected to reach $100 billion by 2020, with $21 billion of that coming from commercial drones. Estimates from the FAA suggest commercial drone sales will climb from 600,000 this year to 2.7 million in 2020, writes Corinne Ramey for The Wall Street Journal.

Savino said the money will more than double the number of refugees the board is able to help. The non-profit is in charge of the summer program, which works to help low-income youth gain both work and academic skills.

The grant was announced by the Department of Labor in conjunction with the White House. A total of $21 million was split between eleven communities, including Utica. The money will be put toward job programs for youth in all of the communities involved.

The grant offered to Utica was described as "The New American Career Pathways project," which will provide the refugee "in-school youth" population with summer jobs and academic support.

Although Savino maintains she has not heard any negative comments pertaining to the grant being offered solely to refugees, not everyone is happy with the move. One local in Utica wrote, "What about the ones who were born and raised here?" adding that her son still lives with her despite having a full-time job. Another expressed their frustration at the summer jobs not being offered to "legal Americans."

Savino states that the community as a whole has been very supportive.

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