SLATE Receives $1 Million Job Training Grant To Help Train St. Louis Workers For High Growth Industries

employ-milwaukee-092316-athomasRecently, SLATE announced receipt of $977,793 in grant funds, made available through the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), to help individuals pursue the education and training necessary to advance their careers or obtain employment. SLATE was part of a group, led by Employ Milwaukee and consisting of Kansas City, Chicago, Minneapolis, Gary (Indiana), Detroit, and Milwaukee, that applied under the America’s Promise grant opportunity. The grant has been titled the Compete Midwest America’s Promise Alliance (CMAPA); the total amount awarded across all participating cities was $6 million.

To implement CMAPA in St. Louis, SLATE will enroll/train 250 participants – unemployed, underemployed, and incumbent workers, with special emphasis on low-income/disadvantaged populations. They will be provided with financial assistance to earn a degree or credential necessary to obtain middle- to high-skilled jobs. CMAPA will also coordinate key regional stakeholders to design new training and employment schemes, enhance participation of local businesses in hiring and retaining talent, and integrate efforts to fully leverage the cost of case management and supporting services among CMAPA’s partners.

Participants must be 16 years or older and not currently in school. More than 1,430 individuals will be trained through this grant over the four (4)-year period.

CMAPA’s primary goal of growing regional economies will be achieved by targeting high-demand industries with significant projected growth. These industries include Advanced Manufacturing, Financial Services, Healthcare, and Information Technology (IT), as well as IT-related occupations.

“We have developed a program that will strengthen and help grow economies and workforce not only in St. Louis but the Midwest region at large. Strategic and planning efforts are better done in collaboration – regional partnerships work across the state lines to efficiently use resources and learn best practices from each other,” said Michael K. Holmes, SLATE’s Executive Director.

SLATE will be engaging participants in American Job Centers either through traditional adult and dislocated worker programs or as referrals from partner education and training providers and employers. On-the-Job Training (OJT) will be an essential element to the service strategy, based on options that are the best fit for each participant. Targeted occupations include Financial Analyst, Personal Financial Advisor, Industrial Machinery Mechanic, Computer Controller, Pharmacy Technician, Registered Nurse, Medical Assistant, Medical/Clinical Technologist, Medical Records Coding, Computer Support Desk, Computer Systems Analyst, Software Developer, Computer Programmer, and Cyber Security.

Nationwide, $100 million was made available through DOL to expand education and training programs and pilot/scale up innovative tuition-free partnerships between employers, economic development, workforce boards, community/technical colleges, and community-based organizations. To date, SLATE received commitments from employers and employer associations including the St. Louis Regional Chamber, Missouri Enterprise, Hunter Engineering, BioGenerator, BacterioScan, and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and two training providers, St. Louis Community College and Ranken Technical College.

The CMAPA grant award was one of 23 awarded and the highest allowed under this opportunity. This is the third successful regional coalition SLATE has been a part of with Employ Milwaukee; the first two were American Apprenticeship and TechHire.

Outreach activities and recruitment of participants for CMAPA will be announced in the near future. Additional info will be found on our website as it becomes available.

Employers Embrace Hiring of People with Disabilities

The Second Annual Accommodation for Success event was organized to highlight transformative benefits of hiring persons with disabilities and address the fears about employing these individuals. The two-day event took place on August 9 – 10, 2016, at the St. Louis Community College’s Florissant Valley Campus. The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) marked a pivotal moment for the approximately 50 million adults living with mental or physical disabilities nationwide. The employment rate for individuals with disabilities remains at 20 percent but key stakeholders believe this can be improved dramatically – the overall goal of this event.

This year’s Accommodation for Success focused on the successes of hiring people with disabilities. New was a Job Fair, a separate event where job seekers with disabilities had the opportunity to network with the employers. Over 100 individuals, representing estimated 70 different businesses, attended the keynote and panel discussion on August 9. An estimated 229 job seekers, along with 49 participating employers, attended the Job Fair on August 10 – participation beyond everyone’s expectations.

“Employers were enthused by the quality of talent who came,” said Jim Sahaida, SLATE’s Equal Opportunity Officer who helped organize the event. “It was truly phenomenal.” A number of participating businesses were selected by each partnering region and presented with awards for Inclusive Hiring Practices, Supportive Training Environments and Emerging Partnerships. The awards were generously donated by the Missouri Rehabilitation Association (MRA).

“As I stood in the doorway watching all of the job seekers engaging and conversing with the employers, I couldn’t help but be overcome with emotion. What a beautiful sight!” said Richard Coleman, Director of Employment at Center for Head Injury Services.

Initial guests were welcomed by St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, who acknowledged the tremendous regional effort to improve services for disabled citizens of St. Louis County, St. Louis City, Jefferson and Franklin Counties and St. Charles. Stenger also recognized the hard work and participation of many local agencies: “St. Louis County government is proud to partner with MERS/Goodwill, Vocational Rehabilitation, Paraquad, Rehabilitation Services for the Blind, and others in providing this opportunity.”

Truly regional, the event’s extensive list of honorary guests included Andrea Jackson-Jennings, St. Louis County Director of Department of Human Services, Kevin Whirley, St. Louis County Workforce Investment Board Chair (Master of Ceremonies), Yvonne Wright, Director of Workforce Development at Missouri Vocational Rehabilitation, Duane Shumate, Director of Youth Transition & Employment at Missouri Department of Mental Health, Division of Developmental Disabilities, and Michael K. Holmes, Executive Director at SLATE Missouri Job Center on behalf of St. Louis City.

A keynote speaker, Andrew Sartorius, delivered a powerful and inspiring message. An attorney and successful graduate of Starkloff Disability Institute, Sartorius is legally blind and had to learn to advocate for his needs early in his life. Now, he continues to support the disability community, and emphasized personal empowerment: “People with disabilities have to meet halfway for accommodations…Stop hiding behind excuses. Move forward, be bold,” he said.

A highlight was the panel discussion of employers and persons with disabilities they had hired. “I want my employers to know that I have a disability but the disability doesn’t HAVE ME,” said Brandon Morris, a quadriplegic, now working at Centene’s Diversity and Inclusion Division. His supervisor, Alishea Johnson, said: “When people look at Brandon, they see limitations. But he’s NOT limited.” The panel was moderated and thoughtfully led by an Advocacy Specialist with the St. Louis Regional Office, Daniel Mellenthin. Other panelists included Tim Combs, Director of HR at Hyatt Regency at the Arch, Sabina Ademovic, Executive Steward at Hyatt Regency at the Arch and Nate Stevens, Steward at Hyatt Regency at the Arch; Felisha Clay, HR Manager at Embassy Suites in St. Charles and Joseph Hunn, Complimentary Breakfast Utility at Embassy Suites in St. Charles; Charlotte Hammond and Jennifer Trudeau from Challenge Unlimited; and Adriana Borojevic and Angell Farley from Watlow.

The 2016 Accommodations for Success event wouldn’t be possible without the generous support of Gold-level sponsors – US Bank, Kiosite, Ranken Technical College, Challenge Unlimited and SSM Health. In-kind contributions were provided by MERS / Missouri Goodwill (continental breakfast for both days). St. Louis Community College (location), Job News USA (advertising), various Missouri Job Centers, including SLATE (staffing, career workshops), Job Corps (students for parking lots, greeters), and Independent Living Centers, such as Delta Center, Paraquad, Disability Resource Association and others (volunteers and outreach). A Dress for Success mobile trailer was parked nearby for use by participants. The outpouring of support was truly heartwarming.

Special recognition goes to the members of St. Louis Regional Disability Committee who selflessly donated their time and energy to making this event a huge success. The committee consists of individuals from Missouri Job Centers representing St. Charles County, St. Louis County, Jefferson/Franklin Counties, and St. Louis City, Vocational Rehabilitation, MERS/Goodwill, Department of Mental Health, and Challenge Unlimited. Jennifer Trudeau, PR Advocate for Challenge Unlimited, member of St. Louis Regional Disability Committee, said: “People with disabilities constitute the largest minority group… we’ve come a long way, but it’s really these types of events that pave the way to action and transformation for generations to come.”

Update: Check out event’s Photo Gallery

YouTube Video: Keynote Address

The House of Apprenticeships

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Gino Austin, Apprenticeship Coordinator, displays the House of Apprenticeships at Ferguson 1000 Job Fair table

SLATE’s Special Projects Department has developed and is growing a House of Apprenticeships. The House is a collection of established ways to enter a number of industries as part of a Registered Apprenticeship – flexible training that offers immediate employment while receiving technical instruction and on-the-job learning.

Traditionally, Registered Apprenticeships are associated with construction-related trades such as plumbing and carpentry. However, this is no longer the case; nationwide, a movement is underway to create apprenticeship programs in IT, healthcare and other high-growth industries that offer livable wage entry level positions and career advancement.

SLATE’s House of Apprenticeships has already established program partnerships with Ranken Technical College (Advanced Manufacturing and Automotive Technician), EXPLORE St. Louis (Conventions and Tourism), Urban Labs Diagnostic Healthcare Solutions (Phlebotomy and Laboratory Technician), LUME Institute (Early Childhood Education), BLUE1647 (IT) and HOSCO SHIFT (Agri-Culinary). These newer programs supplement SLATE’s existing Building Union Diversity (BUD) initiative with numerous building trades.

This is only the start of an extensive planned network of apprenticeship opportunities throughout the St. Louis region – programs with over a dozen additional partners, of all kinds and sizes, are already in development. SLATE’s Special Projects Manager, Stacey Fowler, says “Apprenticeships have always been seen as another word for ‘blue-collar’, but this is definitely changing. Whatever the interests or abilities a jobseeker has, odds are we can help find an appropriate apprenticeship to match.”

The advantages of Registered Apprenticeships include wage increases, portable credentials, college credits, and experienced mentors in addition to the ability to ‘Earn as you Learn’.