Square Offers Internship, Then Hires Youth


(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.


Accommodation for Success Reverse Job Fair Turns Tables for Job Seekers with Disabilities

06-participant-webThe Third Annual Accommodation for Success Disability Employment Event took place on August 10, 2017, at the Forest Park Campus of St. Louis Community College. The event was organized to make it easier for area businesses to build diverse workforce. This year, the event included the first Reverse Job Fair in St. Louis.

Unlike most traditional job fairs, this innovative recruitment event focused on showcasing talents and professional interests of 80+ job candidates with disabilities. Participants met with potential employers in their booth spaces, demonstrating experience and skills in a variety of industries, while human resource professionals roamed the room, meeting the candidates they were interested in hiring. More than 116 recruiters representing 99 area companies were present. With 236 total registrants, not including job candidates, this year’s event was the largest yet.

Accommodation for Success event is a collaborative effort between the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment (SLATE), regional job centers, and more than 20 of the region’s disability employment organizations. Workshops and resources on disability inclusion, etiquette, recruitment, and workplace culture were offered to registered businesses, prior to the reverse job fair.

Earlier in the day, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson greeted the attendees and delivered a keynote address. She acknowledged regional efforts to improve services for disabled citizens, and encouraged the employers to take a hard look. State Representative Sarah Unsicker also attended the event.

A number of participating businesses were selected by each partnering region and presented with awards for Emerging Partner, Exceptional Supporter of Inclusive Practices, and Outstanding Inclusive Employer; awards were presented by Suzanne Waha of Schenker Inc., and Sandy Keyser, Department of Mental Health, Division of Developmental Disabilities.

The 2017 Accommodation for Success event wouldn’t be possible without the generous support of its Gold-level sponsor – SSM Health. In-kind contributions were provided by St. Louis Community College (space at no cost), MERS/Goodwill (continental breakfast), the Starkloff Disability Institute and St. Louis ARC (boot camp for job seekers), and the Human Resource Management Association of Greater St. Louis (professional credits for workshop attendees).

Special recognition goes to the Accommodation for Success planning committee whose dedicated and selfless work made this event such a huge success. Implementing the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), SLATE recently undertook measures to improve the delivery of services for disabled individuals. Furniture was repositioned to allow wheelchairs to pass freely and a specialty day (Thursday) was selected to specifically address employment and training needs of ADA and older worker customers.

“This annual event marked a pivotal moment for thousands of adults living with mental or physical disabilities in our City. The large percentage of people living in poverty is disabled; I believe their true economic independence should begin with giving them access to jobs,” said Dr. Alice Prince, SLATE’s newly appointed Executive Director.

For more information, please view news coverage aired on KSDK/Channel 5 on August 10, 2017:

Also, an interview of two planning committee members aired on STL TV Live, on August 7, 2017:
Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFNS9udTp9I
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZD0ALRNJBU

A photo gallery from Accommodation for Success event can be found here:

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.