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"Get Hired!" Program Prepares Students to Enter the Workforce

Rhode Island’s poor economy and high unemployment make it twice as hard for many Crossroads clients to compete for jobs. Just finding the resources one needs to look for work while being homeless is very difficult to manage. Fortunately, the Education and Employment Services programs at Crossroads can help make the transition to the workplace a little easier. A visit to Leanne Ovalles’ “Get Hired!” class, offered by Crossroads’ Intensive Pre-Employment Program, provides an opportunity to meet some very hard-working students and learn what they are doing to prepare for the workforce. 

The walls in the classroom are covered with student work that inspires and motivates, including the “group resumes” that present graphic descriptions of students’ “game plans” to achieve success. Dirk, one of the students, explained that groups of four students work together to create each poster. One, inspired by Diane, a resident of our Women’s Shelter, was based on a drawing of a football field where “the team” members worked downfield to achieve their goals by building on their assets—education, work experience, hobbies, travel-- and striving to achieve personal success. The classroom walls also show the students’ “mission statements” that express where they want to go, what kinds of jobs they hope to get and careers they want to pursue.

I asked the students how they learned about the class. Some first heard about it through their case advocates, others saw a sign in the lobby announcing the “Get Hired!” class. Those who wanted to enroll signed up for a two-day orientation where they learned all about the class and what would be expected from them. “I had no idea how to write a resume or a cover letter, and I didn’t realize just how much valuable work experience I have,” one student commented. “If I hadn’t come to this class, I might never have done a resume or realized that I have something to offer an employer.” Students say they were very encouraged after compiling their resumes because, when looking at what they have already accomplished, they are more confident that they have valuable skills that will help them get jobs.

The “Get Hired!” class has a 30-hour volunteer requirement, and every student was excited to talk about the wonderful volunteer work experience. “I volunteer with Habitat for Humanity,” says Thomas. “We are building a house for a family that really needs a home. I am committed to staying with the project until we can hand them their keys.”  Dirk, who lives in the Crossroads Housing Tower, volunteers at the Providence Intown Church Association (PICA) food pantry. “There is a constant flow of people coming in for food, and I am amazed how many people depend on PICA just to get through the week,” he says. Dianne and Michelle volunteer at the Salvation Army, where they help set up and serve Sunday meals for people in the neighborhood. Jermain has a volunteer job he really likes—recycling old computer parts at Free Geek, Tanya and Herbie help out the DARE program by doing outreach in the community and giving out information, Chelsea volunteers at the Rhode Island Free Clinic, and Denise is at the Spring of Life Church to help out. Another student says he will continue to volunteer after he completes the class because the experience has meant so much to him.

Students in the class have high hopes for a better future. They are learning to use up-to-date technology and brushing up their computer skills, practicing for job interviews, becoming familiar with the services at NetWORKri and learning workplace skills. Some of the students say they are waiting to enroll in the planned Janitorial Training Program, which Crossroads hopes to launch this year.  Others are interested in the Animal Caretaker and Certified Nursing Assistant trainings, getting a high school credential, or going to college. The “Get Hired!” class is empowering to the students and provides a supportive, professional environment where participants are motivated to succeed.

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