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Working Towards Work: The Fight for a Better Future

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23-year-old Micah Sims isn’t sure if Jobs for Youth is worth his time. After all, it’s about learning to get a job—he wants immediate employment.

MICAH: I’m trying to work!

23-year-old Tina Jackson had different expectations, too.

JACKSON: I was thinking, “Bleep! I sure thought they were a placement service.”

It isn’t a placement service, but it does have employment leads. But to access those leads, you have to write resumes over and over again, complete computer classes and practice interviewing. Another challenge is to lay out exactly what Tina and Micah need help with. It’s an exercise in honesty.

INSTRUCTOR: Tina, tell me about two of your greatest skills.
TINA: I have good communication and speaking skills

Still, she needs more practice.

TINA: I don’t know how to end it, I didn’t quite think about that…

One instructor offers help.

INSTRUCTOR: “I’m confident that these skills will allow me to do well in this position.”
TINA: Can I say lastly? Is that a word? Lastly? That’s a word?
INSTRUCTOR: Sure.

This stuff is new for a lot of people in the workshop—some say it was never covered in school. For Tina, it takes effort to play catch-up, but the stakes are high.

TINA: I have 2 kids, I’m 23-years-old, I’m still living with my father--I kind of want to advance from that.

Right now Tina’s works retail, but she hates it and the pay is low. For Micah, a job hunt will be more complicated., mostly because of one thing:

MICAH: They check my background. Micah slowly reveals that, at age 18, he was convicted of a crime.
HEIKENEN-WEISS: What did you steal?
MICAH: I mean, it was a vehicle. I think it was more greed…more greed than um, personal need.

But now he wants to be more positive. He dreams of working in architecture or construction.

MICAH:

I want people to be able to step into their house and forget about the outside world.

Instructor talking

Tina and Micah finish their assessment tests to see which careers might be good matches for them. For Tina, The assessment was an epiphany. She was heading into the nursing field. Now she wants to be a social worker. She immediately starts researching college programs. And although the workshop has helped her a lot, it’s been overwhelming, too. Her new goal of making it through college seems so far away, given where she’s at.

TINA: That computer test was like, when I say crushing, for some reason, it crushed me.
TINA: Can I come from down here, all the way up here to pass this program?

But she’s willing to press on. And after a few computer classes …she’s got tears of joy.

TINA: Aw, I’m so happy.
INSTRUCTOR: Don’t cry!
TINA: It was so hard!

Computers are challenging for Micah, too. But he’s got to worry about his weak point – he’s got two mock interviews ahead. Micah doesn’t study for the first one, and is nervous going in.

VOLUNTEER: So tell me, what is one of your greatest strengths.
MICAH: One of my greatest strengths is, uh, actually, getting the job done…

After about fifteen minutes, they asses how things went.

VOLUNTEER: Ok, how do you think you did?
MICAH: I was scared.

A different side of Micah emerges after the interview. He relaxes and seems friendly, like he is in class. The volunteer notices.

VOLUNTEER: You need to bring this guy into the interview.

On the last day of the program, Micah sits nervously in the lobby as he waits for his second mock interview. Jobs for Youth won’t set him up with job leads until he nails one of these. He emerges from the interview dancing.

MICAH: They said I’m ready for an interview.

sounds of classroom.

INSTRUCTOR: So I’m going to call you up…

Graduation at Jobs for Youth comes after eight days.

INSTRUCTOR: Micah Sims!

clapping

INSTRUCTOR: I’m glad you stayed.

clapping

After graduation I talk with Micah Sims and he says he’s glad he stayed too, and he says he’s getting out there and applying for jobs.

INSTRUCTOR: This is Tina Jackson who had to run off to work.

Later, I talk to Tina Jackson. Jobs For Youth provided her with several job leads, but she’s most excited to apply to college in Virginia.

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