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Giving Students Options with Job Inc


Through our partnership with Urban Impact Foundation, we're supporting their Job Incubator program, which gives students the skills and experience needed to excel in the workplace.

  • The Job Inc. students and Program Coordinator, Madelyn, at center.
  • Demetrius, a Job Inc. student
  • Julie, a Job Inc. student
  • Aisha, a Job Inc. student
  • Nate, a Job Inc. student
  • Maddie, Job Inc Program Coordinator

Finding a job can be challenging. Luckily, the select students involved in Urban Impact Foundation’s Job Incubator program won’t have to enter the fray unprepared. Through special classes, job experience, and one‐on‐one mentoring, the “Job Inc.” program seeks to not only prepare students for future careers, but also build our region’s next generation of leaders. At Peoples, we believe that investing in our children is the first step to building stronger communities, and we as a company are proud to partner with Urban Impact on this program.

Urban Impact Foundation was founded in 1995 on Pittsburgh’s North Side. The foundation is a non-profit ministry dedicated to serving the area’s at-risk youth. Thanks to its passionate staff, as well as an army of over 400 volunteers, Urban Impact is able to offer a wide variety of programs including after school tutoring, baseball, basketball, and football leagues as well as extensive performing arts and music programming.

Since 2014, Peoples has partnered with Urban Impact on various initiatives, including the Foundation’s ManUp Pittsburgh Conference and a math tutoring program. In 2016, Urban Impact became one of the first charities to participate in our Eat, Drink, Help program. This program pairs a local business with a local charity; in this case, for every slice of pizza purchased from Slice on Broadway on the North Shore, we donated $1 to Urban Impact.

Urban Impact reached back out to us in 2017 to discuss an exciting new program they were piloting, Job Inc. This program grew out of discussions about how to strengthen the Foundation’s Options program. The Options team prepares students for life after high school, guiding them through SAT registration or helping to craft resumes. Across the Pittsburgh Public School District, approximately 70% of seniors graduate per year, on average. In comparison, one hundred percent of Options seniors have graduated from high school and 95% have gone on to college, careers, the military, the ministry, or other activities. Job Inc. was developed to continue to improve students’ job readiness.

“Employers were contacting us about potentially hiring students,” explains Urban Impact’s Director of Education Sara Van Kirk Glover, “but we were hesitant to immediately recommend anyone.” While the staff knew the students had successfully participated in Urban Impact’s programs, they weren’t sure how those students would fare when faced with the challenges of dealing with employers and coworkers. They needed a program where students could gain job experience while learning the skills required to thrive in their future careers. The Job Incubator program was born.

Job Inc. students are nominated by each of Urban Impact’s departments and undergo an interview process before being chosen for the program. Those who are selected are hired as employees by Urban Impact and are paid a salary. As employees, they have set hours and responsibilities. In addition, the students attend weekly class with lessons on character development as well as hard and soft skills needed to be successful. In‐class instruction includes budgeting and interview prep. Students are also paired with a mentor for weekly one-on-one feedback sessions.

“Our goal,” says Madelyn Ridgeway, the Incubator Jobs Program Coordinator, “is to provide a safe space where students can make mistakes and even fail, but then learn to work through those mistakes. While they are here we can help them develop the resilience to bounce back after a setback.”

Reflecting on the program, Van Kirk Glover says her team has a mantra that describes their goal.

“Job in, job out—that saying describes in a nutshell what we are trying to achieve with Job Inc. We’ve worked with some of our students since they were in kindergarten and now, as they enter the professional world, we want to release them from our program ready to succeed. We want them to not just settle on any job, but to find jobs that have voyages, or room to grow. To find jobs they will love.”

Several of the students from Job Inc.’s current cohort echoed these sentiments. Demetrius, an 11th grader at City Charter High School, said the program has helped him narrow down his dream job and illuminate potential paths towards success. He is interested in physical therapy and orthopedic surgery as possible careers. Demetrius is currently working with Urban Impact’s youth baseball league, and while he’s played baseball for years, he says working with kids is an entirely new experience. “The kids are fun… although, there are a few troublemakers. But if you sit them down and talk to them like adults, they listen to you.”

Julie, in 11th grade at PA Cyber Charter, spoke glowingly about the hands-on experience she has received by doing set design and art production for several of Urban Impact’s theatrical productions.

“I definitely want to do something within theater,” she says, “and between the art showcase, the Christmas show, and the summer Shakespeare production, I’ve had so many opportunities to get involved and gain experience.”

Nate, a 10th grader at Perry High School, mentioned the benefits of having a mentor invested in his success. “When we meet,” he says, “I’m able to open up to her, and I’m ready to hear her feedback.”

Another way Urban Impact seeks to make the job readiness requirements more real is by arranging internships, job‐shadowing opportunities, and visits to local employers. One recent visit brought four Job Inc. students together with four Peoples employees at Urban Impact on the North Side. Despite coming from diverse personal and educational backgrounds, the group found common ground talking about the practical skills and traits they found useful on a daily basis at work, such as honesty, gratitude, respect and persistence.

Jamie Pavlovsky, a Senior Marketing Specialist at Peoples, noted one of the messages she shared in their visit with Job Inc. students.

“My personal statement—and I feel like all my coworkers here would agree with me,” she said, “is to always do more than what is expected of you, no matter what. You’re done at 5 o’clock? Stay the extra half hour and finish the project you’re working on. You’re asked to put a report together about something? Throw in a couple of extra observations that your boss maybe didn’t ask for, but that you think add real value. Make yourself indispensable. And when the day comes when one person from your team is going to get a promotion, everyone will think of you first.” The Urban Impact students reflected that going the extra mile is a lesson that has been instilled in them through the Job Inc. program.

At the end of the conversation, Nate, the 10th grader from Perry, thanked Peoples for supporting Job Inc. “I’ve really learned a lot. And honestly, I’m going to be sad to leave.”

Peoples is dedicated to supporting the communities we serve, the neighborhoods that our employees call home, and the organizations that make a difference. “We feel that Job Inc. offers an exceptional opportunity to a group of motivated students,” says Pavlovsky. “As a major employer in the Pittsburgh region, we want to support this future local workforce, and we know the skills the students are learning will be vital to their success in any career they choose to pursue.”

“But more than that, it’s just the right thing to do,” she adds. “We sincerely see the value in programs like Job Inc.—I saw the value in the way these students talked about their futures. And we are thrilled to do anything we can to help them get there by supporting tremendous organizations like Urban Impact.”

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