St. Paul and Ramsey County are planning to spend a combined $24.8 million in federal American Rescue Plan dollars on workforce development programs.

Officials announced at a news conference Wednesday a suite of new and expanded initiatives that aim to create pathways to employment, particularly for youth and young adults.

"We are betting on the massive potential that exists in our families, in our young people and our workers in our city," said St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, adding that economic development work should center on current residents instead of trying to lure workers and businesses from other communities.

The city will spend $15.3 million of its federal COVID-19 aid on the programs, and the county will add $9.5 million.

The two local governments have also pooled their American Rescue Plan funds to pay for the $74.5 million construction of 1,000 permanent affordable housing units.

Ramsey County Board Chair Trista MatasCastillo said "young people have taken the brunt" of the pandemic's socioeconomic hits, since many worked in industries that experienced significant layoffs or had their education disrupted.

The Learn and Earn Occupational Training program will receive the most money — $14.65 million — to pay for costs related to occupational training and subsidize internships for residents between the ages of 18 and 35.

Ten other initiatives will also receive funding, including the existing Right Track and Right Track Plus programs, which will get $3 million to expand their internship and work readiness efforts, and a low or no barrier jobs program, which will connect people experiencing homelessness with work opportunities.

Officials highlighted plans to launch a Driver's License Academy, a $500,000 pilot that will help young people and job seekers obtain a license, an essential credential for some industries.

Projects will roll out over the coming months, said Ling Becker, director of Ramsey County Workforce Solutions.

"We want to do things that are tried and true, but we also want to be an innovator … and try things that have never been done before," she said.

"Ultimately," Becker added, "if we do a good job, people will need less in other parts of the system."