After completing the program in October, she’s preparing to start a new job at IT consulting and networking firm DTI as a junior analyst consultant for the firm’s apprenticeship program. In the long run, she said, she wanted to help expose her peers to different career paths, since she wasn’t aware of her full career prospects until she went to college.
The 21-year-old Auburn Gresham resident, who now has a new job, said she was looking forward to a manageable schedule that would allow her to do the things she loved, especially roller skating.
Why roller skating? “Because I started to feel the air, I started to feel free,” Griffin said. “I can be happy because before I always figured out what to do next… Now I can do what I want. Like, if I want to go ice skating, I can incorporate that into my day.” It. If I want to exercise, I can put it in my day.”
Start by bridging the gap
Ada S. McKinley, a nonprofit providing employment, family and community services in Chicago, Wisconsin and Indiana, helps people with disabilities find work with organizations that want to help women and people of color. Ada S. McKinley’s senior vice president of employment and community support services, Eric Edquist, said the group also recently received funding from America’s Rescue to help and train young Chicagoans.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, some companies have recognized the value of employees with disabilities, Edquist said. The nonprofit doesn’t share job applicants’ personal information with employers, but they do try to prepare employees for jobs ahead of time so they can thrive.
“What we’re seeing is that people with disabilities are really aligned with the work, aligned with the company culture,” Edquist said. “We hear more positive things than negative things.”
The group held a job fair in October, during which it attracted employers such as Food Warehouse of Greater Chicago, Roosevelt University and the Urban League of Chicago. Edquist said it has 25 contracts with state, federal and commercial entities to provide custodial maintenance.
“I think we’re at the beginning of closing the gap between rich and poor,” Edquist said. “One of our goals is to work with people who are employed only for basic needs. There is definitely value in the self-esteem and self-worth of having a job and contributing to an employer, our economy or our country . But a big part of one of our goals is people being able to meet basic needs like owning a home, buying winter clothes.”
For Keisha Hollins, working with Ada S. McKinley and finding a job as a Quality Control Assistant was what made her stand out. She was placed in special ed classes during high school, which is a disgrace. As a result, it was difficult for her to open up to people without feeling like they were causing her pain, she said.
After that experience, finding Ada S. McKinley “helped me grow over the years. I had a hard time with people,” Hollins said. “So Ada S. McKinley helped me develop good communication and people skills.”
For employers, career programs provide a pipeline for rising stars in high school and college. Citadel and Citadel Securities have partnered with Thrive Scholars to launch two programs: Citadel Securities Intern, a two-week program for college sophomores and seniors, and Thrive Summer Academy, a six-week program for college freshmen.
As part of the program, Citadel provides training ranging from writing resumes and learning mathematics to mastering skills in Python (an advanced programming language) and HTML, as well as mentorship from company employees. For Citadel, the partnership adds another cohort of students who may be interested in finance and not have exposure to the industry, said Matt Jahansouz, Citadel’s chief people officer.
“We have a strong talent pipeline, but in terms of where we can deliver talent through new channels, we are all in. We realize that reaching these students early will be an important part of the strategy,” Jahansuz said.
David Opoku-Ware, a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said he enjoyed interacting with the Citadel staff, the company’s hospitality and housing, and meeting other students.
“I kind of opened my eyes to a career in the business world or the financial world, just because I never really studied it or considered it my career path. The only thing I know about business or finance is the closest I know to it “Shark Tank”. I had no idea what business needed. What happened? Does it feel like a viable career? Seeing how it overlaps with technology in particular makes me want to focus more on careers in that field. “
Similar to the nonprofit career readiness program, City College of Chicago has many students of color who will be the first in their families to graduate from college. In recent years, City College has introduced programs such as the “Start Again” program, which eliminates the educational debt of former City College students who wish to return to school. In addition to the training needed to find or change jobs, City College provides attire to people interviewing for jobs, prepares students for resumes and other career counseling.
“We actively work to remove barriers to employment and address underlying factors that create socioeconomic disparities and inequalities in higher education enrollment and graduation,” said Stacia Edwards, associate provost at City College of Chicago. “We are A community college, so I really believe that’s why we’re here. We’re here because we’re accessible.”