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.

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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

Supporting SLATE’s Customers Interested in Becoming Small Business Owners

Micro Enterprise Competition

Check presented to Micro Enterprise Competition Winner, Chavelle Patterson

In the spring of 2014, SLATE entered into a new partnership with St. Louis Small Business Development (formerly Small Business Empowerment) Centers (SBDC) and the St. Louis Development Corporation (SLDC) to help provide technical assistance to small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs.

Even though SBDC has long supported the creation and growth of new businesses locally and regionally, this partnership with SLATE and SLDC focused primarily on dislocated workers within the City of St. Louis who seek employment services at SLATE. Through this collaborative effort, hundreds of SLATE customers interested in becoming entrepreneurs received extensive on-site training and counseling to help assess the feasibility of their ideas and develop a sound business plan. They also learned to successfully apply for loans, access a vast array of assistance in such areas as marketing, government procurement, international trade, accounting and cash flow. Most of these services were provided at no cost.

Lynn Larkin, owner of Design Extra LLC, an interior design firm that specializes in senior living, residential, hospitality and corporate projects, attributed her success in part to the FastTrac for New Ventures program which helped her getting started with legal framework, copyrights and trademarks, the company’s name and logo, taxes, insurance and leadership skills.

Lynn Larkin

Lynn Larkin, owner of Design Extra, LLC

Lynn Larkin’s firm reported impressive revenue of $600,000 in 2014, but she believes this is just the start of bigger and better developments and is committed to continued learning.

“I need to work more on cash flow projections, marketing, and business development – also constantly to learn about managing money and employees.” She said that FastTrac encourages participants to meet one-on-one outside the class and learn more about each other. She believes this approach can result in connections that could potentially develop into unique new markets.

FastTrac also helped Euylan Welch, Executive Chef/Owner of Welch One Catering, a food service provider for schools, small companies, breakfast meetings and special events, realize his passion for food into lasting business success.

Euylan Welch

Euylan Welch, Welch One Catering

“If you ask me how to make a chicken, I can tell you a hundred of different ways, but if you tell me to go fill out some forms – I don’t know how to do that,” said Welch. He enrolled in the Micro Enterprise Competition at SLATE to receive business training and learn how to write a business plan.

“When I got my business plan done, people were looking at me differently. Suddenly, I wasn’t just a kid making food for fun; I was ready to step up my company’s growth using food as a vehicle, “Welch said.

He now has 14 full time and 25 on-call employees, preparing and delivering food from this location. Welch One has survived major economic dropdowns, and Euylan has plans to further expand by opening a restaurant in St. Louis.

A Missouri born design engineer, Douglas Ford, joined the ranks of entrepreneurs after his 14 year tenure at Chrysler ended in August of 2009. He developed and patented a vertical directional drilling method and a matching drill bit to effectively break the toughest rock formations, now used by most utility companies in Missouri. He owns U.S. Drilling Products and aims not only set a new standard for utility construction domestically but to develop a more rapid and efficient process that can be exported to rest of the world.

Douglas Ford

Douglas Ford, U.S. Drilling Products

Ford attributed much of his start-up success to the FastTrac program (funded by Chrysler for their displaced workers). “[Originally] I was going to do mom-and-pop thing out of my garage, but this was taking off and running further and faster than I could ever have imagined,” said Ford.

Micro Enterprise winner, Ford, learned how to think outside-the-box and constantly look for new opportunities. In 2013 he successfully applied and won an additional $50,000 Arch grant which he spent on product development and increasing market share.

Kevin Wilson, SBDC Director, summarized his years of experience in helping new entrepreneurs: “Whatever the industry they are interested in, students ask the same questions. They want to know about the same principles – leadership, accounting, and attracting funding.”

To better serve emerging entrepreneurs, SLATE never stops expanding the array of services offered. New in 2015, were legal workshops and one-on-one counseling sessions on issues such as contracts, employment law, and intellectual property, among others. Additional, more focused small business workshops were held on such topics as negotiating leases, joint ventures vs. partnerships, W/MBE contracts, bidding and bonding.

Small business owners with questions about any of the topics from the previous seminars have an opportunity to meet and consult with a legal expert from Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (LSEM), a private, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that provides legal assistance to the low-income community.

Four of St. Louis’ newest entrepreneurs – winners of the popular Micro Enterprise Competition – were celebrated at the awards ceremony at T-REX, on August 24, 2015. SLATE Executive Director, Michael Holmes, congratulated their ideas and efforts and emphasized that entrepreneurship is an “ongoing journey.” “We hope you’re moving forward, but this isn’t the end. [SLATE] is here to help, we’ll always be there.”