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Builders of Hope, Durham Create Green Job Training Programs for Troubled Youth

August 2, 2010

Builders of Hope (BOH) is a non-profit green affordable housing developer that works with Durham (NC) to train and employ Durham youth who have become “disconnected” from either traditional education systems or the labor market. With the support of Mayor William V. “Bill” Bell, Durham was able to place more than 230 disconnected youth through the Builders of Hope youth program in paid working opportunities in public, private and non-profit agencies.

Nancy Murray, former ad executive turned social activist, started Builders of Hope. The non-profit organization was created in 2006 when Murray wanted to learn all she could about affordable housing and how to start building it. Murray thought that it would be possible to supply quality, affordable houses in good neighborhoods to working class families. Murray would upgrade homes by using the best green techniques while maintaining as much of their old infrastructure as possible. After creating Builders of Hope she was then able to create jobs and mentor programs that address issues such as poverty, unemployment, crime and homelessness.

Durham is ripe with economic opportunities for the majority of its residents and businesses, yet the city also has a relatively high number of disconnected youth between the ages of 16 and 24. Disconnected youth are those who are not in school or lack a high school diploma/GED; are not working or connected to the legitimate labor market; lack strong connections to caring adults and community support; and may be involved in the criminal justice system.

The Builders of Hope and Durham have come together in partnership to develop a green jobs training program that will help Durham’s youth gain skills, training and work experience in the green construction industry. The partners have developed a program that will provide Durham’s youth with work experience, as well as on-the-job training opportunities.


The work mentor program engages up to 60 young parents ages 16-24 in a comprehensive and “family supportive” green jobs training program. The program helps the participants become more employable in local markets by training them through the combined use of soft'skills training, pre-GED/high school diploma preparation, occupational skills training, paid internships, worksite mentoring and On-the-Job training in the green construction industry.

The participants receive technical instruction and practical experience at the worksites. They participate in every aspect of the deconstruction and reconstruction of rescued homes to learn the complete building assembly process. More importantly, the daily skills they develop in the workplace will help them tremendously in the workforce. Some of the soft skills taught in the program include: punctuality, communication and problem solving, teamwork, respect, and conflict resolution. The training provides participants the skills and experience to qualify for mainstream work and the confidence to maintain a position.

The primary strategy of the program is to address challenges that face Durham through comprehensive research and demonstrated success. The program will generate less juvenile delinquency, more families moving from welfare to work, and greater educational attainment among young adults.

Other Involvement

Builders of Hope partners throughout the green sector, including social service organizations such as: homeless shelters, YouthBuild programs, and ex-offender reentry programs that provide some or all participants’ salaries and expenses. It also provides private and federal grant sources, corporate foundation support and local community support.

Lessons Learned

Green Jobs training programs will create the next generation of “green” professionals through this innovative approach, by ensuring that a majority of program graduates who stay at their place of employment. The critical component of the long-term success of the programs participants will come from the supporting partnerships with the Durham Office of Economic and Workforce Development and the Durham Workforce Board.

Advice for Mayors

Mayors play an important role in helping create partnerships across many different areas of the green jobs industry as they have ties to different communities and groups. They can also support green jobs training programs by creating a demand for green jobs in the workforce. They can bring in different green businesses and provide residents with incentives to “go green” through programs like Builders of Hope. Mayors play a key role in providing publicity and outreach not only for green jobs training programs, but the entire green movement.

This program is a USCM/Walmart Foundation Green Jobs Training Initiative Grant Award Winner.

For more information about the Walmart Foundation Green Jobs Training Initiative, contact Juliette Jardim at 202-861-7615 or