Ferguson-Area Youth Get Hand Up In Job Training, Searches | St. Louis Public Radio

Ferguson-Area Youth Get Hand Up In Job Training, Searches

Dec 5, 2014

Around 100 youth started new jobs this week as part of the Emerson funded, “Ferguson Forward Program.” Announced in September, "Ferguson Forward" will support early childhood education, business development, scholarships for students and youth job training.

MERS Goodwill industries will use $750,000 provided by Emerson to train 16–to-23 year olds living in the Ferguson and Dellwood area. More than 30 local business and corporations will employ those enrolled in the program. The places hiring include Complete Auto Body, the City of Dellwood, Emerson, St. Louis Community Credit Union, and the Ferguson Library.

This South Grand sign holds true for the Ferguson area.
Credit Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

Patrick McCulloch, coordinator of STL Youth jobs with MERS Goodwill says the initiative is similar to the STL Youth jobs program he coordinates in the summer. This initiative lasts for six months instead of three and will focuses on 100 youth from Ferguson and the surrounding area, instead of the entire region.

McCulloch says those enrolled in the program receive job readiness and financial literacy training. He said job coaches are also available

“Each one has a job coach that guides them through their job experience, helping them accomplish their long-term, mid-term and short-term goals," he said. “So by the end of their program, they are more employable or ready to take their next steps toward education.”

Jerica Robinson, a job coach with MERS Goodwill, says the support the program provides to youth is essential for their success.

“It makes sure that they are on their Ps and Qs all the time,” she said, “making sure that somebody’s actually assisting them and helping them.” Some of the people don’t have a support system, so she said it’s important “actually being there and being that person to say ‘Hey, I believe in you and you can be that person you want to be’.”

Robinson works with 21-year-old Amber Moody. Moody lives in Ferguson and attends Harris Stowe State University. She's also enrolled in the University of Missouri-Kansas City nursing program. Through Ferguson Forward, Moody will work at DePaul hospital as an emergency room attendant. The nursing student says without the program she’s not sure she’d have this opportunity.

“A lot of employers are not looking to hire young people because they think we’re always on our phones or they think we cannot do things effectively. … So finding a job is really hard especially when you’re young,” Moody says.

Moody says she appreciates that the program is about more than temporary job placement.

“Hospitals are not really looking for young workers and especially if you don’t have much work experience,” she said. “So this will give me experience and lead the way to get more nursing jobs.”

McCulloch said that after the summer program, some of the youth continue jobs at the place they were employed, while others find different jobs or enroll in school. He expects many of the youth who started jobs this week will have similar options after their six months in the program.