Work Readiness Activities : STRIVE

Program/Practice Name: Support and Training Result in Valuable Employees (STRIVE)

Agency Name: STRIVE, a 501(c)3 nonprofit based in New York, NY

Contact Information:

240 East 123rd St.
New York, NY 10035
(212) 360-1100
www.strivenewyork.org

Type of Program/Practice: STRIVE is an international leader in job readiness programs, combining attitudinal training with fundamental job skills and long-term participant follow-up.

Program/Practice Description: STRIVE is a 4-week intervention to improve the employability of low-income individuals seeking to reenter the job market. STRIVE focuses on the hardest to reach populations, including ex-offenders (40%) and individuals on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (40%). STRIVE focuses on soft-skill development and seeks to remove barriers to employment, including lack of money; its programs are offered at no cost to clients. STRIVE employs a strategic approach to increasing employability among clients that includes:

  • Role-playing and task performance in a simulated work environment.
  • Highly interactive, structured training in personal responsibility, attitude, and soft skills such as communication, professional demeanor, and interacting with supervisors and coworkers.
  • Promoting computer literacy and preparing clients for the technical demands of the current job market.
  • Intensive and in-depth client follow-up to support and track clients, helping them remain in the workforce and advance.

Background/Program History: First introduced in New York City in 1984 as the East Harlem Employment Service, Inc., STRIVE serves the most neglected, yet able, unemployed and under-served people: the formerly incarcerated, public assistance dependents, the homeless, and recovering drug abusers. STRIVE's first home was in the basement community room of the James Weldon Johnson Housing Project in East Harlem, and today has grown to have more than 20 domestic and international affiliates.

Operations: STRIVE has been successful in the development and implementation of practical and technical principles that have streamlined the recruitment, assignment, training, and tracking of individuals seeking to reenter the workforce. From intake to successful placement, clients are partnered with intake specialists who review their background and needs and complete a written application. STRIVE uses outreach teams to disseminate information at formal presentations, street fairs, parks, neighborhood sites, and a variety of media outlets. Moreover, it relies heavily on word-of-mouth recruitment through a wide network of community-based organizations. Direct referral by STRIVE graduates is a valuable resource for large numbers of applicants who apply based on personal observance of the program's impact. Trained intake specialists review an applicant's background and needs, and personal interviews reveal whether the program will meet these needs. Moreover, applicants are referred, as needed, to other area resources and are encouraged to seek as much assistance, from as many stakeholders, as possible. STRIVE works with clients to complete a skills assessment and research occupations in demand, while offering other relevant career guidance, including improving client occupational, math, or literacy skills or offering assistance to obtain a high school diploma or GED. STRIVE sites are one-stop career centers that offer a variety of tools to help clients find a new job or a career, including job listings, career advice, workforce information, and an automated job match system. The core workshop is a blend of job-readiness, self-examination, goal setting, critical thinking, relationship building, and self-esteem training. STRIVE has added a financial literacy workshop to increase client money management skills.

Funding: STRIVE has diversified its funding and finances, from grants to direct tuition payments from sponsors, thereby leveraging resources to reach as many clients as possible annually.

STRIVE faith-based funders include:

The Brick Presbyterian Church
The Church of the Heavenly Rest
St. James Episcopal Church
The Church at Point O' Woods

Staffing: STRIVE's staff are integral to the success of the program and STRIVE recruits, trains, and rewards staff who are well qualified and dedicated to the goals of the organization. In an effort to lead by example, about one-third of STRIVE staff members nationwide are also graduates of the program. All staff receive intensive training and continuous learning on effective interaction skills and on the technology necessary to deliver services.

Additional Information: STRIVE seeks to train participants within 4 weeks and have them secure paid employment soon after. Participants are trained to dress and act professionally, and STRIVE focuses on reinforcing personal skills, which include understanding computer hardware and functions, basic computer operations, conducting library and Internet research, and working with both Mac and PC software. In addition to the core program, STRIVE provides a broad range of other services based on specific needs and resources, either in-house or with partner agencies. These include support groups for women addressing key issues such as single parenting, domestic violence, and child care options while remaining independent; fatherhood training addressing emotional and financial issues associated with child support; mental health counseling, systematic mental health assessments, and long-term counseling when needed; youth development programs emphasizing attitudinal adjustment, self-respect, communication, and the importance of completing high school; and supported work experience, with a number of monitored work assignments and placements with temporary staffing services available to graduates before they enter the traditional labor market for strengthening skills and gaining solid work experience.

Tips to Implementation: Organizations aiming to replicate the STRIVE model, which is a unique combination of attitudinal and skills training, should identify specific potential participants, comprehensively measure client skills, match clients with potential positions, design and administer continuous assessments to ensure quality service delivery, track activities to help ensure service delivery, use networks to identify other potential partners, and provide mentorship and networking opportunities for clients.

Successes: STRIVE has been successful at increasing employability among clients by regularizing program outputs, including coordination of a two-year follow-up that ensures clients are successful in their new positions or assists clients in securing a position that more completely fits their skills. Clients in the core training workshop are assigned to a job developer who works with the client to map out a specific employment program and strategic plan to ensure the client is prepared and assigned to a job site in the shortest amount of time. STRIVE's supportive services and follow-up specialists offer clients a long-term commitment with continual assistance and communication during the first two years after graduation and occasional communication afterward.

Challenges: Challenges faced by STRIVE include limited action by clients to improve life circumstances, limited knowledge about specific industries, employer mistrust or negative impressions about STRIVE clients, and employer reticence to share information with other employers. Although working to build comprehensive networks of service, the available social infrastructure presents several challenges to effective implementation of the STRIVE model.

Other Lessons Learned: STRIVE has articulated a vision of a sustainable and competent workforce and recommends various strategic elements to ensure success for clients: monitoring workforce needs and economic trends in local communities; quickly and comprehensively identifying client competencies and developing and delivering relevant training and resources to clients; designing an integrated lifelong learning delivery system; conducting evaluation and research; and ensuring financial support. Also, STRIVE recommends that organizations create an interactive data-based Web site that connects and serves education agencies, businesses, employers, job seekers, and human services agencies; create and nurture a comprehensive network of education and social service providers able to respond to community-specific needs; and better address language and cultural barriers.

“There are no tools associated with this program.”