Full Employment Council Provides ‘Learn-&-Earn’ Opportunity

April 25, 2018
Full Employment Council Provides ‘Learn-&-Earn’ Opportunity

Within three months, Ramone, a 22-year-old father of four kids went from a young Kansas City native struggling to provide for his family to an IT specialist with a full-time job, a $60,000 salary, and benefits. If you asked Ramone he would tell you it seemed too good to be true.

If you asked Shelley Penn, the Senior Vice President of the Full Employment Council, she would grin ear to ear sharing Ramone’s story as just one of many Kansas City residents who currently benefit from an innovative triangular partnership between the Full Employment Council, higher education institutions, and job providers. “When he heard about the Javascript course, he signed up, went through the eight weeks, and went into an internship at Snap-Fit and now is working full-time – all in a three-month process,” Penn said.

Midwest Urban Strategies is excited to celebrate the success of the Full Employment Council. It is best practices like the Full Employment Council’s in Kansas City that can provide greater opportunity to job seekers in urban areas throughout the Midwest. Funding from the Department of Labor’s America’s Promise provided the opportunity to train job seekers that were underemployed, employed, and, in some cases, never employed, seeking opportunity through just-in-time training activities. The America’s Promise funding targeted middle skill “H1B” occupations.

Consider the case of SNAP-IT Solutions, a local IT business in Kansas City. The public workforce system, administered by Penn’s Full Employment Council, brought SNAP-IT together with the University of Central Missouri to create a “learn-and-earn” program that has provided a path to a better future for Kansas City job seekers. Essentially, Penn worked with the university to certify a SNAP-IT instructor as an adjunct professor. Once the school approved the curriculum, SNAP-IT provided an instructor and conducted the course for job seekers interested in learning IT skills. Some students moved on to unofficial “apprenticeships” at SNAP-IT, which for some turned in to jobs! In fact, SNAP-IT hired six students in full-time employment.

Before employers like Snap-IT were involved in leading the curriculum, Penn kept running into roadblocks. “I was being a little too bossy, but when we envisioned this I was talking to an employer about working with our agency,” she said. “Their response was they would love to, but sometimes the skill a person would receive from existing training programs was not in line with what they (as the employer) needed to be sure that candidates hit the ground running. I asked what they’d like, and they said they could teach the class themselves.”

What employers and workforce boards have learned is that a 6-8 week internship, especially in the IT field, is not enough time to allow students to gain the skills that they need to be proficient in their job. Additionally, that short of a time period wasn’t enough for employers to determine if the student had grasped the content and skills necessary to do the job. Applying the “earn and learn” approach of a paid (unofficial) apprenticeship extended the learning opportunity for these job seekers and created increased value for the employer.

“Snap-IT couldn’t compete with the big IT companies so the opportunity to grow their own through this process was very attractive,” Penn said. “Not only could we train the individuals, but you also had the credential under the umbrella of a four-year university which meant it was industry-recognized and then you had employment immediately following.”