Through a recent partnership between STL Youth Jobs and the Ferguson Forward Initiative, young people in Ferguson and Dellwood now have the opportunity to get employment training and ultimately jobs.
Zharria Henry, a student at St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley, found a job at the Missouri Veterans Home through the program.
Henry credits STL Youth Jobs for helping her prepare for the job and then landing it. At the veterans home, she works as an administrative assistant and transports patients. She said the job helps pay for her education and allows her to help her mother out financially.
She also said the training and work have improved her patience level, which she believes she will need in the health and education fields. She is considering a career in each. Henry was between jobs before she connected with STL Youth Jobs and credits the program for getting her on track.
The program provides young people with a job coach and financial literacy and life skills training.
Executive Director Hillary Frey said it’s a way for area businesses to invest in their community.
More than 90 percent of the people who completed the program felt equipped with the necessary tools for their next job, according to the group.
Frey said STL Youth Jobs is grateful to have the opportunity to work with partners in Ferguson and other nearby communities. Protests after the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer highlighted the need for jobs in those areas for teens and young adults.
“If you look at the region as whole there is a significant gap in youth employment opportunity, specifically paid employment opportunities especially in underserved communities,” Frey said.
Frey also said the program aims to place participants in a job that will fit their interests and where there is a high demand for future opportunities.
However, because Ferguson and nearby communities have such a high need for youth employment, the program, which serves about 100 young people, has a waiting list that is three times more than what they can serve.
“If you look at the disparities related to youth development and success beyond high school in our region there are many benefits in what a job can provide to someone, especially to a young person,” Frey said. “One of the reasons why this so important is because if you look at the numbers in the region there is a skills gap that we are facing.”
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