Life can be tough for returning citizens and other at-risk individuals.
Finding and keeping a job can be hard for many and for those re-entering society, simply learning how to live in a world outside of prison can be daunting. They need help and support.
STRIVE is there to help with training that leads to livable wage employment and societal re-integration.
“One of our main goals is to help returning citizens as they settle back into their home and society,” says Phil Walker, STRIVE’s director of training and operations, a nonprofit workforce development organization located in Flint. “We work with individuals from all walks of life though who have difficulty getting or keeping a job – the working poor, veterans, the long-term unemployed, and the homeless. Each person has different issues as to why they can’t get ahead.”
Walker, who has been in his role for 17 years and was one of the organization’s first employees, understands many in Flint face challenges.
“Prepared to work, determined to succeed” is the slogan STRIVE proudly emblazons on its website. More particularly, the now 18-year-old organization delivers services to the community that change participant’s lives by way of employment and empowerment. They are there for those who are most in need of assistance.
“Our oldest client is 87, but we work with youth as well,” Walker says. “Our employment search starts backwards. We look at the human capital then really try to place people in jobs.”
STRIVE uses one-on-one sessions to help participants overcome the barriers that may be in the way of getting and keeping a job. It has a 19-day employment readiness program that helps participants focus on particular areas.
“Certain certifications are really attractive to certain employers,” says Walker. “Some employers really look at those certifications. We work with all industries, but have seen an explosion in manufacturing and healthcare, so look to those a good deal to place the right candidates.”
STRIVE also offers youth programs that provide training and job placement for young people ages 14 – 21. It has serviced more than 125 youth in job preparation training and obtaining employment. The training takes place during the summer and the school year to assist students with career education and development. It has partnered with Flint Community Schools, the Pontiac School System, Genesee Intermediate School District, Salvation Army Youth and Metro Housing Unit on the program.
Walker was honored with of a grant last year from the Ruth Mott Foundation. He knows how just one job can tip the scales for someone and plans to use the dollars to enhance his organization’s employment assistance program.
“It balances their life,” he says. “Helping them start a checking account or own a home. We have a lot of resources here in Flint. It’s putting those resources together – that’s how you change a community and make it whole.
“That’s what the foundation has done too – give the community hope that somebody hasn’t forgotten them,” he says.
Walker also recognizes it will take more than the efforts of one group though to accomplish that.
“We need for-profit businesses and organizations here to help develop high-paying jobs,” he says.
STRIVE is funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the Ruth Mott Foundation, which held “The RMF North Flint Strategic Plan Update and Community Forum” last December at the Asbury United Methodist Church. It drew a large crowd ready to take action and continue efforts already underway in a part of the city that has had a good dose of difficulty. Walker was impressed.
“This is the second year the Ruth Mott Foundation has put this on,” he says. “They are really trying to deal with the north side of the city. Unemployment is 41.5 percent there, which is very, very high. For the foundation to be targeting that area is very special. It has never been done in our community.”
STRIVE is an international organization brought to Flint by the C.S. Mott Foundation. Its work takes place within Genesee County, but STRIVE maintains membership in an affiliate network of like-minded community-based organizations around the country and overseas. From the Boston Employment Service to STRIVE Israel in Tel-Aviv, the organization collaborates to find individuals a job no matter where they end up. The network has put 50,000 people to work since 1984.
Lead image: Phil Walker, STRIVE’s director of training and operations, says there are a lot of resources in Flint to help people find work and putting those resources together can change a community and make it whole.