Square Offers Internship, Then Hires Youth

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(Left to Right) SLATE Business Developer, Ken Riddick, with program participant, Antoine and Square HR Manager, Dione Turner

A high tech boom is accelerating in St. Louis, offering opportunities for tech-savvy workers from all backgrounds. Square, newly located at the heart of St. Louis’ Cortex District and its community of innovators, opened a customer service center to take advantage of local talent. The service industry requires intelligent, bright, responsible, self-motivated employees with a quality work ethic and superb people skills, along with at least entry-level technical skills. Square was certain such employees could be found within communities traditionally overlooked by tech sector recruiters.

Truly innovative and forward thinking, Square presented SLATE with an unprecedented project – creating a paid internship program for deserving youth from underserved urban African-Americans communities locally. The internships represented a chance not only to gain experience and skills in a fast-paced environment, but also the opportunity to be hired as a permanent member of Square’s team. Eager SLATE staff helped identify youth for this new enrichment opportunity.

With SLATE’s help, Square’s Dione Turner and Kimberly Radich, indentified 15 youth willing to enroll, and eight were placed in internships. For the next three weeks interns were at SLATE learning life skills/soft skills and computer skills, followed by 12-weeks of personalized on-the-job training in cooperation with mentors from Square. The professional mentors focused on long-term development and upstream thinking as well as serving as a ‘sidekick’ – always available to offer advice and reinforce an intern’s specific areas of concern.

Customer skills the interns developed included time management, patience, listening, learning on the fly, positive peer relationships and multi-tasking. All eight participants found the experience worthwhile and grew from it.

In late June 2016, two of the interns were hired by Square full-time.  As with all staff at the facility, they were graded on performance, in part through customer surveys. One of them, Antoine, was rated a Top Performer in August.

The experience also turned out to be transformative for Square. Square told us that the program is undergoing a continuing process of refinement, but they are definitely looking to bring it to the other sites in California and New York in the future.

According to SLATE Director of Youth Services, Dr. Alice Prince, internship are sometimes offered to youth with minor offences. “Square has a transformational environment, ideas, and leadership,” she said. “They [Square] have a unique culture… a culture of community, inclusivity, acceptance, and respect for others.”

Such atmosphere of inclusiveness elevates overlooked youth, empowers them to become useful in their communities, and encourages problem solving. As a team, Square interns help create products and services that push boundaries and innovate businesses worldwide and support local economies.

They have opened the door of opportunity for young St. Louisans and SLATE is proud to continue the partnership.

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SSM Hires Graduates of Health Profession Opportunity Grant

Jessica_KimbleJessica Kimble (left) with her HPOG Case Manager at SLATE

Jessica Kimble was among those hired for DePaul Hospital; she said the program gave her the knowledge to finally get a job in the medical field, gain confidence in her chosen path, and that it sparked interest in a future healthcare career.

Jessica, 26, said her position at SSM is Clinical Partner, and that her duties will consist of helping patients with basic needs while they are treated in the hospital. In addition, she will be collecting data for use by nurses and medical personnel to help them better care for their patients. Short of administering medications, Jessica said she’ll be doing everything nurses normally do, helping with medical procedures, changing bandages, etc.

Jessica’s wages will start at $10.07 an hour, with an increase in January, when her rate will go up to $11 (plus the night shift differential).

Helping people has been Jessica’s dream since she was a child; however, entering the medical occupation wasn’t easy. After obtaining her CNA certification at age 17 and Associate’s Degree in Medical Administration, Jessica had difficulty passing her final certification exam and took jobs unrelated to healthcare. It was after graduating from HPOG that Jessica was able to get back on track in pursuit of her dream.

The statewide Health Profession Opportunity Grant, established at SLATE and other Missouri locations last year, aims at helping adult individuals, like Jessica, to obtain the certifications necessary for entry-level positions in nursing, pharmacy, emergency medicine and other healthcare occupations. These include Patient Care Support, Health Information Technology (HIT), Pharmacy Tech, Medical Assistant, Nursing Assistant, Clinical Partners, among others. Eligibility is based on an income requirement, residency in St. Louis City or County, an H.S. Diploma or GED, Assessment and Random Assignment (lottery).

Depending on the career pathway, classes consist of eight to 12 weeks of studies, combining classroom work at St. Louis Community College’s (STLCC) Forest Park campus and hands-on clinical practice at participating hospitals. The most valuable aspect of the program, Jessica said, was availability of supportive services offered. Her Case Manager at SLATE, Svetlana Kogan, was able to provide her with uniforms, transportation tickets, and other support. Her mentor at STLCC, Laurie Hawkins, assisted with filing forms and paperwork, books, necessary flu shots, tests and exams, and resume preparation.

“There were people at every level to support me and my classmates to help us succeed. Any question, any concern…being patient with me, telling us everything we needed to know. It definitely took stress out of our minds and helped find solutions… I would have never completed the program [without them]. They were 90 percent of my success.”

Jessica said she really enjoyed the practical, hands-on training aspect of the program and it was hugely important to her. She said that when she shadowed the nurse working on the floor handling her patients, she became convinced she had made the right choice of career track. “As long as you remain dedicated, committed and are willing to sacrifice, you’ll succeed,” said Jessica.

Not a stranger to SLATE, Jessica said she found her very first job through our summer youth program, working at Better Family Life, years ago. SLATE has now impacted the next stage of her life. Now, Jessica has set a new goal of becoming a CNA and is thinking about going back to school for her Bachelor’s Degree. She’s even considering using her knowledge and experience in healthcare to start her own business.

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’.