Innovative Partnership with SLU Expands Opportunities for Employment Diversity in IT Industry

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Graduates of the SLATE TechHire program celebrate with Helen Greaves, Corporate Relations Manager, Center for Workforce & Organizational Development School for Professional Studies at SLU (center left), on December 22, 2017.

St. Louis University’s Workforce Center partnered with the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment (SLATE) as part of the Compete Midwest TechHire Partnership to provide 10-day bootcamps for IT certification from December 11th through December 22nd, 2017. The four certification classes encompassed studies in CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+, CompTIA A+, and Microsoft Office Specialist|Excel. Program graduates received a Certificate of Completion for their course of choice, and will complete a final exam to attain their Certifications. This partnership produced 42 trained IT candidates who are prepared to seek employment in the near future with continuous support and assistance from the SLATE Job Development team.

The SLU-SLATE partnership was developed as a part of President Obama’s TechHire commitment to foster diversity within the IT industry by providing opportunities to those “who are most in need – specifically youth and young adults”. SLATE’s TechHire team provides access to new, innovative training opportunities for eligible St. Louisans, increasing the availability of quality candidates to fill current IT vacancies for area employers.

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LYFT Pilot Project Offers Ride-Sharing for SLATE Construction Apprentices; Promotes Transportation Equity for all St. Louisans

lyft-logoOn December 20, 2017, five graduates of the MOKAN Construction Training program, developed in partnership with SLATE, were the first to participate in the  St. Louis LYFT Pilot Project. The construction graduates utilized the popular ride-share service for transportation from home to work and back again. The pilot program is designed to help participants of SLATE construction training programs to minimize the barrier of transportation inequity for apprentices as they work toward gainful employment in the construction industry.

Many SLATE program participants reside in marginalized communities in St. Louis, and face barriers to gainful employment due to high rates of poverty and a lack of resources. Construction graduates face the particular challenge of transportation options for traveling to training and employment opportunities, as their employers’ construction sites are often inaccessible through public transportation.

The LYFT Pilot Project aims to address transportation inequity though a partnership between SLATE, LYFT, private sector employers, and local developer Niehaus Building Services, LLC.  In the December launch, a LYFT driver transported the five MOKAN graduates in one SUV from their homes to training and, potentially, employment site at Neihaus Building Services, LLC., and back home again. Transportation costs for the five riders totaled $11 each way.

The LYFT Pilot Project utilizes a combination of private and public funding to facilitate the program, including WIOA funding for eligible participants. LYFT Pilot participants will book their transportation through SLATE, to track participant use and ensure fiscal accountability. Once graduates are placed in employment and are earning regular income, LYFT transportation costs become the responsibility of the employed workers.

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.