When thinking about ‘career building’ work experience and obtaining the right training come to mind. Overlooked are the ‘logistics’ of career building. Let’s take our driver’s licenses. For Elpis trainees, all of whom are young people experiencing homelessness and typically coming from under-resourced communities, a driver’s license is not part of the typical ‘rite of passage’. They don’t get access to cars, and state required training for youth under the age of 18 starts at $350 each.
Living in car dependent communities a driver’s license is essentially a requirement. And each of us has had our own experiences in navigating the Department of Motor Vehicles and what is often the nerve-wracking process of buying a car. Imagine doing it by yourself—alone—without access to basic training.
Marcelilus is an Elpis trainee. His Elpis story, which includes obtaining his driver’s license and a car, shows the importance of accompanying a trainee on their aspirational and logistical journey.
Elpis is more than a job to Marcelilus and other young adults with whom he works. Elpis provides moral support to each trainee as needed as they take the next step in their career plan. Marcellius’ resilience and ‘grit’ is what propels him, but having Elpis there each day of his journey has been an important part of his success story.
Marcellius came to Elpis Enterprises as a trainee in 2018. He began in Elpis’ product-centered woodworking enterprise, showed an aptitude for woodworking and could readily grasp the bigger picture about how a small business operates. Upon completing his training as an intern, Elpis hired Marcellius in a Project Lead position in its woodworking enterprise. This included being responsible for the day-to-day supervision of the woodworking summer 2019 trainee cohort. Elpis recently promoted Marcellius again to be its Community Workshop Coordinator.
As a Woodworking Project Lead and now as the Community Workshop Coordinator, Marcellius is gaining additional work experience and skills related to his long-term career goal of employment in construction or a manufacturing-related business. Elpis continues to providing Marcellius with ongoing coaching and mentoring that specifically increase his production management and supervisory skills. Marcellius meets weekly with Elpis’ career counselor specific to moving his career plan forward.
However, a requirement for almost any construction or a manufacturing-related job is a driver’s license. A driver’s license may be needed for business-related deliveries, or because the worksites are not on mass transit, or because there are ‘odd’ shift hours.
A driver’s license and a reliable means of transit have been a major obstacle for Marcellius and other trainees in taking their next career pathway to the next step.
Elpis worked with Marcellius and his case manager from the agency that initially referred Marcellius to us to identify ways to obtain behind-the-wheel instruction time with a state licensed driver’s education program and to purchase a car.
Elpis’ role was to ‘walk the journey’ with Marcellius. Our staff helped him study for the written portion of the permit and navigate both the license and car registration process. Our Elpis staff members were always ready to listen and guide Marcellius when he ran into ‘red tape’ or other obstacles as he purchased his first car. The personal financial literacy coach who is at Elpis monthly worked with Marcellius to figure out a budget for purchasing the car, insurance costs, and save for ongoing maintenance needs. Our career counselor worked with Marcellius on identifying new training and employment-related opportunities that were now open to him with a car.
With a car, Marcellius is better able to manage a busy schedule of work and studies that can be made more difficult when relying upon mass transit. In addition to working with Elpis, Marcellius is completing a program through the City of Saint Paul that will help him be more competitive in seeking a trades related position. It is a five-day a week program and Elpis modified Marcellius’ work schedule so that he could come in after completing his classes each day.
With a driver’s license, Marcellius is now helping with Elpis’ deliveries and pick-ups, as well as bringing supplies and other items needed for community-based workshops. This documented experience with work-related driving will help Marcellius in taking that next step after Elpis.
This journey has taken time. It was not a 12-week story. As Elpis develops its ‘Earn and Learn’ program in partnership with local businesses, this level of support over an extended period of time can be provided to more trainees as they create and move forward with their career pathway plans.
The Sundance Family Foundation’s support assists Elpis in identifying and pursuing opportunities that broaden and deepen employment readiness training with the goal of helping its trainees build career pathways to prosperity and community leadership.