On October 30th the graduating class of Solutions for Youth convened for an informal commencement ceremony and pizza party.
Solutions for Youth is a pre-employment skills and training program for young people, aged 16 – 29, who face barriers to finding work. This sixteen week pre-employment program includes four weeks of classes and a twelve-week work placement. During the in-class portion of Solutions for Youth, participants take part in resume-building workshops and use role-playing to develop their interview skills. Each member of the class also spends time assessing their skills and personality type as well as their personal barriers and goals. These activities help the participants build a road map to finding employment. The group is also given tools to help cultivate professional work habits such as stress management, conflict resolution, and balancing a budget.
The pizza party was an opportunity for the participants to have fun and celebrate their achievements, but also to reconnect with their classmates after going their separate ways for their new employment opportunities. The way the group joked with each other as they jostled to get into position for a group photo, made clear they had become friends.
When I asked the diverse set of young men and women what they though the best part of the program was, I got a variety of responses. A participant named Cyrus immediately answered “the placement”, while Abdi replied “the techniques for overcoming specific barriers.” A young woman named Adriana said she felt the most important thing she will take with her is the boost in self-confidence. Joshua felt the most valuable thing he gained was an understanding that people come from very different backgrounds and have different abilities and challenges.
This fall’s group has been particularly strong. Out of the ten participants, nine completed the program, eight are being taken on permanently at their placement locations and one is going back to school. Some of the students will be entering the skilled trades: Abdi and Alli will be joining a very reputable landscaping company and Jerry will be working in masonry . Other students will be joining the service industry: Adriana, the recent subject of a news story with the Ottawa Citizen (http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/the-upbeat-causeway-unmasks-mental-illness-to-raise-funds-for-employment-programs) is happy to report she will be working at the Men’s Mission. Josh will be taking a job at McDonald’s and Cyrus will be working at the GT Boutique, this year’s winner of the Outstanding Community Business award. He will also be returning to school at Algonquin for accounting.
Program Director Laura Saunders, says that the group has worked very hard, but what struck her the most about the participants is the evident bond between them. When she made her rounds to the various placement locations each of the interns wanted to know how their former classmates were doing. She was impressed with both the work ethic and positivity shown by the group.
Once funds are in hand, a new group of young people will be accepted for the program. Causeway will be sure to inform everyone in our network once registration dates have been established. We expect this will most likely happen in January.