One of the primary barriers keeping young people who age out of foster care from attaining a stable adulthood is employment. Many don’t have the necessary skills to get and hold down a job that will support them. Project Everlast Omaha has set out to change that with its Employment Program.
The pilot program
Oanh Heiser, Employment Specialist at Project Everlast, put together the initial pilot of the Employment Program. This 5-week boot camp was designed to teach the hard and soft employment skills that many system-involved youth missed out on growing up in the system.
“We had 30 to 40 kids who wanted to be part of the pilot,” said Oanh. “We had to interview to narrow it down.”
The program accepted young people. This was enough to make the program interactive, while still keeping the group small enough to give everyone individual attention.
The first step to developing program content, according to Oahn, was to go around to different employers to find out what they needed. What were the characteristics that many applicants were lacking?
With the feedback of local companies in mind, the program partnered with Infinite 8, RESPECT, and Goodwill to provide content.
Infinite 8 focuses on the eight intrinsic motivation principles:
- Self discipline
- Self responsibility
RESPECT brought their unique brand of interactive role-playing to teach interviewing skills as well as on-the-job conflict resolution.
Of the 9 young people who participated, everyone saw results:
- 2 got jobs before even completing the program
- 1 secured an interview before completing the program
- 2 received job offers
- 3 are pursuing job leads
- Only 1 young person did not complete the program
Each participant received funding and shopping assistance to buy an interview outfit.
“When they interviewed, you were just blown away,” said Oanh about the post-program participants. “They were so confident! You could see it in the way they walked, in the way they talked. They were just glowing.”
The obvious success of the pilot has given Project Everlast ample reason to move forward and expand the program. Project Everalst will begin offering two options: A 5-Week Employment Readiness Boot Camp that’s similar in structure to the pilot program, and a Fast-Track program with 2 sessions. Project Everlast estimates that both of these program options will serve approximately 130-160 young people each year.
Want to support the employment program?
Visit ProjectEverlast.org to make a donation.