City Name and Name of Workforce Area:
St. Louis, SLATE Missouri Job Center
St. Louis Bioscience Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Surpasses Goals
In October 2011, SLATE, together with the St. Louis County Economic Council and the St. Louis Minority Supplier Development Council (MSDC), won the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, a $1.8 million federal grant. With co-applicants BioSTL, BioGenerator and the Center for Emerging Technologies, the grantees collaborated on programs to increase talent available to emerging companies in the region’s bioscience sector. The funds from the grant helped to ensure the region’s bioscience businesses continued to grow and that a strong talent pool was available.
The original workforce development goal under this grant was to place 60 dislocated and adult jobseekers in bioscience sector jobs through On-the-Job Training (OJT) over four years; and SLATE is pleased to report that this goal has already been surpassed. To date, 74 individuals have been placed in full time positions through OJT. The participants’ hourly wage averaged over $20/hour to start; positions ranged from entry-level lab assistants to research scientists.
The implementation of OJT brought with it specific challenges, however. Smaller start-ups typically do not have the resources to hire someone full-time until a new product or service has been developed and a revenue stream established. In response, SLATE proposed, and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) approved, the best practice of shared staff. This allowed two small companies, generally located in the same bioscience incubator facility, to agree to time-share one staff person with the more established company serving as the primary employer. After the OJT period was completed, the companies jointly assumed the full cost of the wages until one could formally create a full-time position.
The Bioscience Jobs Accelerator allowed numerous new enterprises to bring on one or more employees, help them learn new skills, and achieve their business goals faster than they otherwise would have. “The Bioscience grant surpassed our expectations as it fulfilled a real need,” stated Bonnie Forker, SLATE’s Business Development Manager. “There are a lot of start-up businesses in this sector, developing new and exciting ideas and products.”
As a result of the Bioscience Jobs Accelerator, SLATE’s Business Development department was able to provide a substantial boost to the local bioscience sector. Recently, SLATE’s Bioscience Jobs Accelerator project has been selected for DOL’s Best Practices evaluation. Representatives from Ann Arbor-based Mathematica Policy Research visited SLATE to survey records and interview staff at our American Job Center and at the various partners who helped make this collaboration possible.
DOL told us: “Your cluster was chosen partially because DOL considers it to be one of the more successful clusters; we would like to learn more about how your cluster has achieved this success.”
Building Union Diversity Program Connects Jobseekers to Construction Jobs
On October 7, 2014, Mayor Francis G. Slay, SLATE Executive Director Michael K. Holmes, representatives of organized labor, and minority workers in the construction trades gathered to officially announce the formation of the Building Union Diversity (BUD), an innovative program designed to increase diversity within the construction trades. The press conference was held just outside the Associated General Contractors (AGC) Construction School.
BUD provides comprehensive pre-apprenticeship skills training to minorities, women and long-term unemployed in the St. Louis region. The timing is considered critical as in the wake of the economic recession, construction jobs are expected to show double digit growth rates over the next several years.
Among the many individuals who made the program possible were Jeff Aboussie, St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council executive secretary treasurer, Terry Nelson, Carpenters’ District Council of Greater St. Louis executive secretary-treasurer, John Gaal, Director of Training and Workforce Development at the Carpenters’ District Council, and SLATE’s Michael Holmes and Earl Strauther. “This is a truly regional effort to reduce income inequality,” said Slay. To the assembled stakeholders and journalists, Nelson stated that, “This is a historic day – we now have a plan to move forward.”
When asked why two years passed between the Mayor’s executive order on workforce diversity and the formal establishment of BUD, Holmes responded, “We have spent that time meeting with each union. We have held information sessions, one per month, at SLATE. We worked out the funding. This is a process, and we’re not done. We plan to include ten more unions.”
Aboussie commented, “Remember that two years ago we were also in the depths of the recession. We are now starting to see the light. Opportunities are there that weren’t before.”
Gary Elliot, President of Laborers Local 110, admitted that unions have historically struggled with the issues of racial diversity, but sees BUD as a very positive new beginning. “[The program] is about fairness. We’re going to give people the skills they need to succeed, to earn a living. We need to stop thinking about each other as black people, or brown people, or yellow. We are human beings, all of us.”
Holmes also observed that SLATE’s efforts, and those of our many partners, are bearing fruit. “We have four goals for City [construction] projects: apprenticeship, minorities, residents and women. Some employers have met all four of these goals; others three of four. So we are seeing companies step up to the plate.”
BUD consists of a comprehensive and intensive seven-week pre-apprenticeship skills training course, taught by nationally certified and industry approved specialists in state-of-the-art facilities. Participants learn skills required for entering apprenticeship with participating BUD Construction trades, including Brick Layers, Carpenters, IBEW Local 1 Electrical Workers, Iron Workers, L.I.U.N.A. Construction Craft Laborers, Operating Engineers Local 513, and Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562.
Eligible participants can be provided with work-related equipment, transportation to training sites, and a training stipend (upon completion of the program). SLATE continues to hold information sessions on pre-apprenticeship opportunities in the building trades to recruit new students.
To date, SLATE and BUD conducted two pre-apprenticeship classes training 22 new apprentices to enter the building trades. Four women and 18 men, including 15 African American and four veterans, received their certificates of completion. Of them, 82 percent were able to find employment in construction within 3 months of graduating from the class.
“This effort goes beyond most industry/government partnerships, regionally or nationally. Bringing labor-directed construction skills training centers across the St. Louis region into our communities will assist industry with meeting its labor demands while placing motivated individuals in highly skilled, middle income careers,” said Holmes.
Missouri’s ReBootU Offers Accelerated IT Certification to Long-Term Unemployed
On December 16, 2014, a group of 40 students received their certificates in Information Technology from St. Louis University. The group included 11 students who were trained through special funding from the Missouri Division of Workforce Development (DWD), awarded to SLATE under RebootU program to assist long-term unemployed individuals seeking a career in the IT industry.
Over the next six months, SLATE continued to oversee the coordination of orientations, assessment and training for about 100 individuals who have exhausted their unemployment benefits (27+ weeks) and returned to school to gain or upgrade IT skills and enter a high-demand field.
The DWD grant aimed at creating pathways to employment for non-traditional IT professionals – those who had an interest or inclination for technology but needed to learn specific skills, or those without a traditional degree.
For participants, the process began with attending a RebootU orientation at any one of four participating colleges– St. Louis University, Washington University, University of Missouri-St. Louis and St. Louis Community College. Many hundreds of interested individuals took advantage of this training opportunity.
The curriculum normally consisted of 8-9 classes that ultimately lead to the earning of a certificate in such areas as Information Security, Project Management, Application Development, Mobile Development, Business Intelligence and Microsoft Office, among others.
The curriculum has been approved by the St. Louis-based nonprofit organization, LaunchCode, which paired people aiming to work in technology with top-level employers through paid internships and job placement. Additionally, LaunchCode acted as an intermediary, pairing individuals with an interest in coding in mentor relationships with experienced coders; the St. Louis Regional Chamber was the general intermediary for those who decide on IT fields other than coding.
In addition to the technical training, the BounceBack program component provided Job Readiness Training, including resume, network and interview building skills for unemployed individuals who felt disconnected from the job marketplace.
Once students were trained, LaunchCode and RCGA worked with their business contacts to fill project-based positions where skills and diligence were more important than experience. LaunchCode was responsible for placing 25 jobseekers, with the Regional Chamber placing the remaining 75. SLATE was able to offer a number of On-the-Job Training (OJT) and Work Ready Missouri funding slots to further help with the cost of bringing new hires on board.
Below are a few testimonials from students served by this program.
Philip Zera, who received his certificate in Business Intelligence (BI) and has been hired as a BI Consultant, praised the program: “Because of it, I got a better pay and a better fit. Now I can choose who I want to work for… My certificate is a bridge to new opportunities.”
Melita Long has been unemployed since 2012. She studied for 3 months to receive her certificate as a Microsoft Office Specialist: “I now need to take my CAP [Certified Administrative Professional] test which costs $400.” Because of SLATE’s ongoing financial support, she was hopeful she would soon attain this credential.
Gerald “Jerry” Palmer worked in IT since 1981 but the recession and consecutive layoffs made him aware of his need to upgrade his programming skills. He was able to use his general knowledge of INFORMATICA, an in-demand development tool, and his newly acquired language from a Datawarehouse Development class to get a job at Centene: “If I went to the interview with just experience in [Microsoft] SQL Server, I would look like a novice.” Instead, Jerry impressed with his diversified set of skills.
The Corporate Relations Manager at Saint Louis University, Helen Greaves, observed that anyone undergoing long-term unemployment could lose their confidence. “This program gave them their confidence back. At graduation, students were excited and so proud of themselves,” she said.
YouthBuild Grant Puts Young People to Work Building New Homes
A press conference held on April 20, 2015 formally welcomed the YouthBuild-Northside Regeneration program to the City of St. Louis. The Department of Labor awarded $1.1 million to SLATE last year to create a construction skills training program in partnership with Ranken Technical College.
The funds will be used to serve 75 disadvantaged youth ages 16- 24. The program will link participants with the massive, on-going effort to renew 1,500 acres of historically impoverished neighborhoods in north St. Louis.
City of St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay noted that “these grants are part of a broader effort to invest in the future of our nation’s youth and give them a helping hand up the ladder of opportunity.”
YouthBuild is community-based alternative education program, targets young people who may be struggling –perhaps they’ve been in trouble with the law or dropped out of school –but who are looking for a second chance and a positive direction for their lives.
Through a partnership with Ranken Technical College, dedicated learners and workers will receive valuable job skills, put them into action, and get paid for doing so. Emphasis is placed on leadership development, financial literacy, academic enhancement, technical skills training in construction, community service, and securing permanent employment.
“Youth Builders will be able to see the physical progress of their work, giving them something to take pride in as they help to establish themselves in a new career while also helping to reshape their neighborhoods,” Mayor Francis Slay said. “This is the latest example of creating job opportunities, and even more importantly, sustainable career paths for a new generation.”
Youth Builders will work on homes alongside members of the Associated General Contractors of St. Louis, which represents dozens of organized labor unions. These contractors and laborers will provide advice and expertise to the program.
“Ranken is extremely excited about this partnership,” Ranken President Stan Shoun said. “The opportunity to help local residents learn skilled trades while they rebuild the City’s 5th Ward is a goal we proudly undertake.”
“YouthBuild will directly connect to the ongoing efforts by so many organizations to renew our urban core,” Michael Holmes, Executive Director of SLATE, said.
A number of other partners will assist with strategic direction, recruitment, support, evaluation or job development as part of one or both grant-funded projects. They include the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of St. Louis, Construction Career Center, St. Louis Public Schools, the St. Louis Development Corporation, the Missouri Division of Youth Services, St. Louis Job Corps, Preferred Family Health, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), the 22nd Circuit Court Juvenile Division, the St. Louis City Juvenile Detention Center, Missouri State University and the local St. Louis Workforce Development Board (WDB).
This project dovetails with the City’s Building Union Diversity (BUD) program, which introduces minorities and women to nearly a dozen of the building trades in a pre-apprenticeship format. The first class graduated nine people. Eight of them already have full-time jobs. Graduates of the YouthBuild program will also be encouraged to apply for the BUD program, or, they may be qualified enough to apply directly to the building trades apprenticeship program.
At the press conference, Shoun spoke about the bright prospects for employment in the skilled building trades over the long term. “Blue collar jobs will be at the heart of the economic recovery,” he said.
Holmes commented that “jobs are important, but just as important is training. YouthBuild will give youth the skills they need to succeed.”
SLATE is responsible for recruiting and placing individuals for both the YouthBuild and the BUD programs.
YOLO Face Forward and Second Chance To Assist Over 100 Juveniles with Education and Employment
Since 2013, SLATE and its partners have successfully pursued a total of nearly $2.8 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to serve youth released from the juvenile justice system. Program participants, over 150 at-risk St. Louis City youth, will receive access to training, mentorship and a variety of supporting services, including employment assistance.
DOL’s grant of $818,165 under the Face Forward grant program aimed at helping juvenile offenders obtain employment and access needed for support services. SLATE was one of 28 organizations nationwide to receive funding under this new program.
The grant was announced at a press conference held at Fathers’ Support Center (FSC) on July 16, 2013, with Mayor Slay, program partners, and media representatives in attendance. FSC is the recent recipient of an additional DOL grant under the Training to Work-Adult Reentry initiative, which will complement SLATE’s efforts.
Under the grant, SLATE will operate the You Only Live Once (YOLO) StL Youth Diversion Program over the next three years. YOLO Face Forward is designed to assess more than 100 juveniles and provide them with intensive case management while individually matching each youth with a volunteer mentor. Participants must be residents of the City of St. Louis, between the ages of 16 and 24, and have current or past involvement with the juvenile justice system.
Each participant is engaged in paid summer employment or other work and matched with a variety of service learning experiences, to gain access to the skills needed to pursue full-time employment and/or a post-secondary education. Washington University School of Law’s Civil Justice Clinic will provide no-cost advice to YOLO participants, ensuring that they fully understand all the legal rights to which they are entitled and are provided with representation as appropriate.
At the press conference, Mayor Slay noted that “YOLO will give our community’s young men and women every chance for success.” Judge Jimmy Edwards, who helped found the Innovative Concept Academy, summarized the program’s goal. “What do they [at-risk youth] need? Education and jobs. These grants will help provide those key assets,” he said.
According to SLATE Executive Director Michael Holmes, SLATE acted as a convener and a facilitator of the program: “We will manage this grant, but we won’t spend it all. Soon, we will have an open bid and proposal process that our community partners are welcome to participate in.”
Among the numerous other individuals and agencies that have endorsed YOLO are Judge David Mason on behalf of the St. Louis Family Court – Juvenile Division, Circuit Attorney Jennifer M. Joyce, the St. Louis Workforce Investment Board, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the Missouri Department of Corrections and the Missouri Department of Social Services.
Two competitive grants from DOJ will serve youth released from the juvenile justice system and aims to reduce recidivism in urban St. Louis from 10 to 50 percent of the next five years.
The first grant in the amount of $358,478, received in November 2013, is part of the Second Chance Act Reentry Project. The Reentry Project was established to help ensure that youth successfully transition from secure confinement facilities to the community while promoting public safety.
SLATE will use the grant funds for the You Only Live Once (YOLO) STL Reentry Program (building on the previous YOLO Face Forward grant award from the Department of Labor). YOLO will serve 32 juveniles through a comprehensive evidence-based program design and dynamic partnerships with public and private agencies and major universities. Each participant will complete a minimum of 100 hours of service learning, 40 hours of job readiness, 125 hours of work experience, 125 hours of summer work experience and 80 hours of mentoring. These steps should increase the number of youth that receive jobs, who graduate from high school or obtain a GED, and who enter a post-secondary education or apprenticeship program.
Missouri State University has agreed to perform an independent evaluation as part of the YOLO Reentry program. It is anticipated that the YOLO STL Reentry Program will contribute to a 10 percent drop in recidivism over one year and a 50 percent drop over five years.
The second grant in the amount of $520,954, received in August 2014, is part of the Second Chance Act Technology Career Training Program for Incarcerated Adults and Juveniles.
This new funding establishes the You Only Live Once (YOLO) – Tech Training program, aiming to reduce rates of recidivism among 35 high risk St. Louis City youth released from the juvenile justice system through intensive case management, tuition assistance and access to substance abuse prevention and mental health services.
Ranken Technical College is a key partner in both programs, providing classroom instruction and worksite supervision to YouthBuild participants, and grant-funded tuition assistance to YOLO-Tech Training participants. SLATE and Ranken work together to coordinate their resources in order to provide City youth with the opportunity to learn skills, earn in-demand industry certificates and pursue degrees.
Initiative that Address Barriers to Employment
SLHA and SLATE Kick-Start Jobs Plus Pilot Program
The audience at the Al Chappelle Center, part of the Clinton Peabody public housing development, was enthusiastic when the Jobs Plus Pilot program was officially initiated on August 25, 2015. Cheryl Lovell, Executive Director of the St. Louis Housing Authority (SLHA), the agency that provides low and moderate-income public housing for St. Louis residents, spoke to over 200 residents of the Clinton Peabody facility. SLATE has worked closely with SLHA to create and implement an effective, collaborative program.
Lovell described the main elements of the program and its goals: to provide residents of Clinton Peabody with job-readiness and skills training, help with employment and managing financial outcomes so they can transition to unsubsidized housing. The Clinton Peabody development is SLHA’s largest and oldest facility, with 347 households, many consisting of single mothers, and an annual income well below the average for similar developments.
“About 58 percent of residents here are unemployed. Close to 250 people need a job right now,” she said. “Jobs Plus will provide job training and supportive services that will change the culture of a low-income community to a work community.” Under Jobs Plus, residents will be assessed for their talents, career interests and skills, and matched with opportunities in manufacturing, pre-apprenticeship, hospitality or healthcare, among others. SLATE is responsible for all the program’s workforce development activities and will provide three on-site managers, administer paid work experiences and supportive services, and hire paid Community Coaches and volunteer Jobs Plus Ambassador positions from among the residents.
One of the innovative features of the program involves bringing technology education to the community in cooperation with acclaimed Chicago-based IT provider, BLUE|1647. Adults and youth residents will be able to gradually become accustomed to and solve problems with computer technology, including coding, 3D printing, build mobile apps and designing computer games. Staff from BLUE|1647 were present at the event, entertaining residents by creating personalized busts using state-of-the-art 3D printing technology.
SLATE Executive Director Michael K. Holmes remarked, “If we have all these IT jobs, then people of color, low income people, people from public housing should have an opportunity, with some basic training, to have careers in IT,” he said. “Often those opportunities aren’t present in urban communities. That’s a void we are trying to fill in [with Jobs Plus].”
Stacey Fowler, SLATE’s Special Projects Manager, spoke about building a stronger community based on work ethics, knowledge about jobs and how to get them, and self-sufficiency. She shared the program’s vision of a Community Café, where residents will receive peer-to-peer support and collectively deal with everyday challenges that can arise as people transition into a brighter future.
“This development has lots of women; many of them are single mothers. We will provide them with short-term training so that they can immediately start building a secure future for themselves and their children,” said Fowler.
Funding for the Jobs Plus program was provided by a $3 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Representatives from HUD emphasized the unique, distinguishing qualities of the Jobs Plus program at Clinton Peabody; SLHA was only one of nine organizations out of 60 nationwide applicants to be selected for this grant.
Individuals with Disabilities
Accommodation for Success Focuses on Employment of Persons with Disabilities
On August 11, 2015, businesses and organizations from across the St. Louis region including SLATE gathered at the St. Louis Community College at Forest Park’s Student Center Café to hold Accommodation for Success. This special event called attention to the ongoing challenge that persons with disabilities face when seeking employment.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the passage of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, the employment rate for those with disabilities remains extremely low at 20 percent, compared to 68.9 percent of people without disabilities. Accommodation for Success is specifically designed to encourage and support businesses to consider persons with disabilities for full-time employment, gathering and explaining all the resources available. SLATE has played a role in reaching out to employers, and has hosted a series of planning meetings in cooperation with the Missouri Dept. of Mental Health, other American Job Centers across the region, members of the St. Louis City Workforce Investment Board, and Vocational Rehabilitation Services, part of the Missouri Dept. of Social Services.
Accommodation for Success was attended by over 100 human resources officers from approximately 60 businesses and 30 agencies that provide specialized workplace services for persons with disabilities. Ameren, Anthem, Commerce Bank, Express Scripts, Mercy Health, Monsanto, Paraquad, St. Louis Community College and Washington University were among those participating.
HR representatives took notes as the keynote speaker, Lisa Sterns of the National Disability Institute, delivered her powerful speech about inclusiveness in a work place as a basic condition for humanity. “Chances of you or your loved ones becoming disabled at any point of their life are pretty high,” she said and therefore it pays off to gain a perspective on disability issues. “The best learning experience that you are going to have will come when you actually hire one person with disability.”
The event also featured several break-out sessions, with employer-focused topics including ‘Recruiting Etiquette,’ ‘Sourcing to Find Talent, ‘Accommodations & Assistive Technology,’ and ‘Tax Credits.’ A number of federal initiatives seek to break down barriers to employment of persons with disabilities. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act that funds SLATE now includes a reauthorization of the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) portion of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, with an emphasis on fully integrated work environments.
Accommodation for Success, sparked empathy and interest to create similar forums in other regions. “I’ve now been given a challenge of seeing if we can implement your model in our region,” the EO Officer from Cape Girardeau in Southeast Missouri told SLATE.
Employment Assistance Program Overcomes Barriers for Veterans
Since August 2012, when the WorkReady Employment Assistance Program (WREAP) was launched at the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Workforce Development Conference in Washington D.C., SLATE has offered numerous WREAP sessions across the St. Louis region. Overall, the program has proved so successful that other metropolitan areas in Missouri and even other states have indicated their interest in replicating similar sessions for their own veterans. Since its inception, WREAP has conducted workshops in Kansas City, Columbia, Fort Leonard Wood, and Cape Girardeau, with upcoming sessions in Jefferson City and Kansas City before the program returns to St. Louis. Any veteran interested in registering for a WREAP session should send an email at email@example.com.
Often, the differences in terminology between the military and civilian workforce present a barrier to employment for veterans recently returned from duty overseas. WREAP specifically addresses this challenge with exercises that help veterans better translate their training and skills into common business terminology. Frank Alaniz, the Missouri Workforce Regional Liaison at SLATE who coordinates WREAP, states that “military veterans often have a wide range of skills and talents civilian employers are seeking. But at times the veterans and the employers don’t speak the same language.” Seminars are also offered to recruiters to ensure that hiring managers can adequately discern the skill matches they are looking for.
The response from veteran participants has been nothing short of outstanding. One Missouri National Guardsman told SLATE, “As a specialist who hates military briefings this was the best brief that I’ve ever attended.” A veteran who was struggling with his job search confirmed that “what I have learned at the seminar works. I couldn’t believe the responses I’ve received in the last three weeks. Thank you!”
SLATE Executive Director Michael K. Holmes looks forward to building upon the success of the program. “WREAP plays an important role in helping our highly skilled and motivated veterans reenter the job marketplace. For them, it really is a shift between two worlds, and SLATE helps make that transition as painless and quick as possible.”
WREAP has been endorsed by both businesses and educational institutions including Monsanto, Ralston, Habitata, McDonalds, BJC, SSM, Webster University, the University of Missouri St. Louis, St. Louis University, Washington University, by the Missouri ESGR (Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve), and by numerous veteran support organizations throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area.
Graduate! St. Louis Finishes Its Course with Impressive Results
The Graduate! St. Louis Workforce Development Consortium (GSL) was formed in the spring of 2010 through the efforts of local leaders in workforce development, from community colleges, and the Regional Chamber (then known as the Regional Commerce and Growth Association). This coalition successfully applied for a $4.4 million Department of Labor Community Based Job Training grant; the project period lasted from July 2010 to December 2013, or 42 months.
Administered by SLATE as lead agency, subcontracts were awarded to five community college systems throughout the region: St. Louis Community College (SLCC), St. Charles Community College (SCC), East Central College (ECC), Jefferson College (JeffCo), and Southwest Illinois Community College (SWIC).
The proposed and actual training focus areas centered on three industry sectors with demonstrable growth within the greater St. Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA): Healthcare and Allied Health; Information Systems; and Renewable Energy/Emerging Technology.
Over the course of GSL, approximately 4,500 potential participants were contacted and recruited through a combination of outreach by each college campus, through nearby Missouri Career Centers, and via mailings to former/lapsed students with some credit, prime candidates to complete a degree or certificate. Over 3,800 participants, primarily dislocated workers, unemployed adults and returning, non-traditional learners, entered training programs of some kind, and fully 86 percent of them attained a credential or certificate of professional value (a limited number attained 2-year degrees).
Review of wage credit reports revealed that an estimated 47 percent of training completers were employed in the health care industry; another 15 percent in Information Services/networking; and a small number (perhaps 3 percent) in energy efficiency/green positions, meeting the projected outcomes. The remaining 35 percent of completers were either in non-training related retail or customer service positions, or no data was available – the overall number of training-related job placements will likely be revised upwards as this information is obtained.
The strategic partnership between key local organizations and their effective collaboration to provide integrated training and employment services allowed GSL met or exceeded almost all its outcomes helping thousands of dislocated workers and returning learners throughout the region make a course correction in their careers.
Supporting SLATE’s Customers Interested in Becoming Small Business Owners
In the spring of 2014, SLATE entered into a new partnership with St. Louis Small Business Development (formerly Small Business Empowerment) Centers (SBDC) and the St. Louis Development Corporation (SLDC) to help provide technical assistance to small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs.
Even though SBDC has long supported the creation and growth of new businesses locally and regionally, this partnership with SLATE and SLDC focused primarily on dislocated workers within the City of St. Louis who seek employment services at SLATE. Through this collaborative effort, hundreds of SLATE customers interested in becoming entrepreneurs received extensive on-site training and counseling to help assess the feasibility of their ideas and develop a sound business plan. They also learned to successfully apply for loans, access a vast array of assistance in such areas as marketing, government procurement, international trade, accounting and cash flow. Most of these services were provided at no cost.
Lynn Larkin, owner of Design Extra LLC, an interior design firm that specializes in senior living, residential, hospitality and corporate projects, attributed her success in part to the FastTrac for New Ventures program which helped her getting started with legal framework, copyrights and trademarks, the company’s name and logo, taxes, insurance and leadership skills.
Lynn Larkin’s firm reported impressive revenue of $600,000 in 2014, but she believes this is just the start of bigger and better developments and is committed to continued learning.
“I need to work more on cash flow projections, marketing, and business development – also constantly to learn about managing money and employees.” She said that FastTrac encourages participants to meet one-on-one outside the class and learn more about each other. She believes this approach can result in connections that could potentially develop into unique new markets.
FastTrac also helped Euylan Welch, Executive Chef/Owner of Welch One Catering, a food service provider for schools, small companies, breakfast meetings and special events, realize his passion for food into lasting business success.
“If you ask me how to make a chicken, I can tell you a hundred of different ways, but if you tell me to go fill out some forms – I don’t know how to do that,” said Welch. He enrolled in the Micro Enterprise Competition at SLATE to receive business training and learn how to write a business plan.
“When I got my business plan done, people were looking at me differently. Suddenly, I wasn’t just a kid making food for fun; I was ready to step up my company’s growth using food as a vehicle, “Welch said.
He now has 14 full time and 25 on-call employees, preparing and delivering food from this location. Welch One has survived major economic dropdowns, and Euylan has plans to further expand by opening a restaurant in St. Louis.
A Missouri born design engineer, Douglas Ford, joined the ranks of entrepreneurs after his 14 year tenure at Chrysler ended in August of 2009. He developed and patented a vertical directional drilling method and a matching drill bit to effectively break the toughest rock formations, now used by most utility companies in Missouri. He owns U.S. Drilling Products and aims not only set a new standard for utility construction domestically but to develop a more rapid and efficient process that can be exported to rest of the world.
Ford attributed much of his start-up success to the FastTrac program (funded by Chrysler for their displaced workers). “[Originally] I was going to do mom-and-pop thing out of my garage, but this was taking off and running further and faster than I could ever have imagined,” said Ford.
A Micro Enterprise winner, Ford, learned how to think outside-the-box and constantly look for new opportunities. In 2013 he successfully applied and won an additional $50,000 Arch grant which he spent on product development and increasing market share.
Kevin Wilson, SBDC Director, summarized his years of experience in helping new entrepreneurs: “Whatever the industry they are interested in, students ask the same questions. They want to know about the same principles – leadership, accounting, and attracting funding.”
To better serve emerging entrepreneurs, SLATE never stops expanding the array of services offered. New in 2015, were legal workshops and one-on-one counseling sessions on issues such as contracts, employment law, and intellectual property, among others. Additional, more focused small business workshops were held on such topics as negotiating leases, joint ventures vs. partnerships, W/MBE contracts, bidding and bonding.
Small business owners with questions about any of the topics from the previous seminars have an opportunity to meet and consult with a legal expert from Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (LSEM), a private, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that provides legal assistance to the low-income community.
Four of St. Louis’ newest entrepreneurs – winners of the popular Micro Enterprise Competition – were celebrated at the awards ceremony at T-REX, on August 24, 2015. SLATE Executive Director, Michael Holmes, congratulated their ideas and efforts and emphasized that entrepreneurship is an “ongoing journey.” “We hope you’re moving forward, but this isn’t the end. [SLATE] is here to help, we’ll always be there.”
SLATE Partners with 1st Financial Credit Union to Financially Empower Youth and Low-Income Populations
In 2014, SLATE partnered with 1st Financial Federal Credit Union in order to provide financial literacy and planning services to youth program participants, including regular funding and special grants, such as YouthBuild, YOLO Second Chance and YOLO Face Forward, and others.
1st Financial has been an invaluable source of free checking and savings accounts, online banking access, direct deposit, and free debit cards as well as comprehensive financial education, all helping to create a culture of long-term planning and goal-setting for unbanked populations of St. Louis City.
Mario Lopez, part of SLATE’s newly established YouthBuild program, remembers growing up without a bank account. “Neither of my parents had an account while I grew up. Banks and credit unions were considered a positive place for saving money. But all the money we had seemed to go straight to bills and my Mom felt we weren’t wealthy enough to start saving with an account, ” he said.
High unbanked and underbanked percentages often have a direct influence on the poverty level of a community. Fees to buy money orders for utility bills, cashing checks at convenience stores, and utilizing payday loans are the hallmarks of living unbanked and initiate a cycle that can be very difficult to escape.
Throughout 2015, SLATE expects to serve at least 2,000 St. Louis area youth aged 17 to 23 through summer employment and various programs including YouthBuild. Every one of these participants will receive financial education and accounts through our partnership with 1st Financial.
Mario expresses his gratitude for the opportunities afforded to him by YouthBuild, which helps young men and women earn wages while they learn construction skills, and the partnership between SLATE and 1st Financial. “I am learning how to do flooring, demolition, wiring, and learning the basic skills I’ll need for jobs in construction. Before this program, my future didn’t look too bright…but once I heard about the YouthBuild program I considered it a win/win situation.”
Mario also emphasizes the personal value he places on his account with 1st Financial. “Being able to see what I am saving makes me feel like I am in control and helps me meet my short and long term goals which include continuing my education and start a great career.”
During the summer months of 2015, 1st Financial Credit Union reported a total of 812 checking and savings accounts opened by youth hired through SLATE-funded activities. Additionally, over $115, 000 were deposited into youth-owned checking and close to $11, 000 in savings accounts.
“It makes me proud to know that our young people are saving and make an effort to become financially healthy,” said Alice Prince, SLATE Young Adult Workforce Division Manager. “When young people are getting up going to work every morning, they are less likely to commit crimes and more likely to attend school or a training program.”
SLATE knows about the negative implications and ramifications financial instability can bring to local communities. We also know about a positive impact contributed by financially healthy communities. To help low-income communities gain access to economic prosperity, SLATE plans to include a financial literacy component to all its programs designed for underprivileged populations.