Kupu Aina Corps

Kupu created the Kupu Aina Corps Program to address the drastic effects of COVID-19 on the local economy by matching displaced workers with companies in emerging industries.


Kupu Aina Corps

Vote for this Project


At A Glance

Location: Hawaii

FHLB Des Moines Member: American Savings Bank, F.S.B.

The Impact: The Kupu Aina Corps matched workers displaced due to the pandemic with companies in emerging industries throughout the state, while also offering up to three months of on-the-job training. The 356 program participants worked over 89,000 hours at 150 partner agencies across the islands. The success has also resulted in new legislation passing earlier this year to create new, permanent programs molded after Kupu.

The Need: Due to the impact of COVID-19, Hawaii was experiencing a record 20 percent unemployment rate across the islands. This was one of the worst economic crises experienced by the state in recent history. The tourism and hospitality industries were quickly crippled, with an abundance of workers in low-wage jobs that were hit especially hard.

The Results:  Kupu Aina Corps participants not only gained incredible skills to bolster their careers, an estimated $6.5 million was infused back into the economy – more than twice the cost of the program.

The Key Players: American Savings Bank, F.S.B., University of Hawaii, Kupu, Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, Economic Development Alliance of Hawaii

The Full Story

Kupu has served as a dedicated resource for Hawaiians for more than 14 years, working to empower youth through community service opportunities and environmental stewardship. The organization created the Kupu Aina Corps in 2020 as a response to the drastic affects that COVID-19 was having on the state’s vulnerable workforces. With the help of several local and national programs, Kupu worked to match displaced workers in emerging industries that needed talent.

Through the program, individuals were placed in internship opportunities that provided temporary employment due to COVID-19 related hardship and business closures. The Kupu Aina Corp goal was to strengthen the state’s economy through work diversification and reducing the unemployment gap – the fourth highest in the nation, at the onset of the pandemic.

The University of Hawaii worked with Kupu to provide the educational tools necessary for the program, and through the last year over 80 percent of participants completed at least one course through the university (or another partner training organization).

Overall, the program supported 356 participants who clocked in over 89,000 hours across 150 partner agencies. Kupu estimates that this meaningful work contributed over $6.5 million in economic benefits for the islands – more than twice the cost of the program.

Along with the significant economic impact, the program participants contributed to a more sustainable Hawaii. The teams worked to plant native plant species across 375 acres of protected land and removed debris and invasive species across thousands of acres of land and nature trails.

At the conclusion of the program, one in three participants noted they were interested in continued conservancy work or had secured full-time employment. Half of all participants either found long-term work or decided to pursue a continued degree. An additional,10 percent of participants indicated they would look to complete national service work with Kupu or another organization.