Urban League's Save our Sons program boasts high job placement rate | St. Louis Public Radio

Urban League's Save our Sons program boasts high job placement rate

Nov 26, 2015

For two years, Tyrell Stalling sent off job applications to no avail. Sometimes, he was homeless.

“At one point I took all the resumes I did and just threw them away. Because I was like, there’s no help. This world is just unfair,” Stalling said. Stalling is one of 114 men who this year have completed a new job training effort by the Urban League.

In January, the nonprofit established the Save Our Sons program as a response to last year’s upheaval in Ferguson after the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer. Corporate sponsors raised $1.25 million to support the program.

After completing the July session of the program, Stalling found work at a Burger King in Lambert-St. Louis International Airport — something that keeps him going while he pursues a passion for animation.   

“Out in the real world you’re going to have people who are going to treat you well and people who’s not going to stick with you. This program is one of the ones that really came through and it worked,” Stalling said.  

For a month, participants attend half-day classes at one of two Urban League locations. When the nonprofit's new building opens on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, on the site of the burned QuikTrip gas station, classes will move there.   

Mack Caldwell has taught classes for the Save Our Sons program since its start in January.
Credit Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Mack Caldwell, who teaches at the North Oaks location near Normandy, said his classes focus on four pillars: “How to get a job, how to keep a job, how to get promoted, and how to remain marketable in the workforce.”

“We’re teaching those intangible skills that a lot of us males don’t have, those skills that we didn’t pick up at school: How to write a resume, how to network, how to present yourself in the right manner at an interview,” Caldwell said.

Participant Randell Johnson said the practice with job interviews has helped calmed his nerves.

“It’s been working out for me,” said Johnson, who graduated high school this year.

Caldwell brings in hiring managers and representatives from St. Louis-based employers to talk about what they look for in job candidates. In the afternoons, participants are encouraged to go home and send off at least three job applications. By the end of the program, that’s 60 applications.

Over the past year, about 36 men dropped out of the program before they finished. But 99 percent of those who completed all four weeks of the program have been hired for full- or part-time work — including one who had struggled to find employment due to a criminal history.

“We ended up helping him find employment with a company who accepted individuals for who they were. And now he’s been working there for quite some time,” Caldwell said of the young man with the criminal history.

Follow Durrie on Twitter: @durrieB