Students benefit from community work experiences in career planning

Feb 22, 2021


Outside the temperature hovered around zero, but inside, it was nice and warm and smelled like a tropical garden with fresh cuts, arrangements, bouquets, and plants throughout the expansive distribution site.

Hoping to one day have a career in the floral industry, Angela Yang was excited to get valuable hands-on work experience at one of the Upper Midwest’s premier wholesale florists in Minneapolis.

From the time, we were young, we have likely been asked the age-old question: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Some of us have always had a ready answer and a clear path toward that career goal; others need time to explore, experience, and examine the many choices available.

For youth who have significant barriers to employment, career planning may be challenging. Rise is among agencies in the state now offering Pre-Employment Transition Services (or Pre-ETS) to students who are referred by their school district, State Services for the Blind, or Minnesota Vocational Rehabilitation Services.

Pre-ETS is mandated by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (or WIOA), which was signed into law in 2014.

This federal legislation is designed to strengthen and improve our nation’s public workforce system and help get Americans, including youth and those with significant barriers to employment, into high-quality jobs and careers as well as help employers hire and retain skilled workers.

With plants coming in from around the world, Angela carefully unpackaged, sorted, and distributed plants to various display areas so that sales representatives could visually assess plant availability for their customers. Her favorite plants were the tropical ones; she also loves tulips and lillies.

Quietly and methodically, Angela went about her work two days a week, learning not only valuable floral industry work skills, but equally valuable “soft skills” that employers expect in an employee.

Rise Employment Consultant Amber Barnes provided one-on-one job coaching until Angela caught on to all her job duties. Weekly check-in visits provided additional support to help ensure that Angela made the most of her six-week work experience there.

“Angela is a hard worker and was a tremendous help to the florist staff,” said Amber. “She caught on right away, and was steadfast and focused on her work. We are exploring additional work experiences at other local florists.”

Students can work in a Pre-ETS position for up to 120 hours, although if requested, this can be extended. They may also have multiple work experiences in different industries to truly get a better idea of what kind of job for which they are best suited.

In addition to valuable work experiences, students have access to four other activities which will help ensure their long-term success in the workforce, including job exploration counseling, counseling on postsecondary education options, work readiness skills, and self-advocacy.

“Our initial plans for a Pre-ETS rollout across Rise’s Minnesota service areas were slowed down somewhat due to the onset of COVID when schools switched to hybrid and distance learning,” said Senior Director of  Vocational Services Robert Reedy.

“This made identifying students who could best benefit from Pre-ETS and coordinate their work experiences more challenging, but we are excited now to join with other service providers to offer these critical services to young adults to assist them in their career planning.”

Latrice Sinclair, 19, has been working three days a week as a teacher’s aide at the LaCreche Early Childhood Centers, Inc. in Minneapolis since October; she attends Transition Plus in South Minneapolis the other two days.

Latrice has had other work experiences, including at a flower shop and a seniors’ residence  where she helped people with feeding, personal care, and mobility. She hopes to someday have a career either as a baker or teacher.

LaCreche Executive Director Phyllis Sloan has helped make her work experience a robust opportunity by allowing Latrice to rotate through all of the center’s classes and programs. The young woman says she has enjoyed learning to care for infants, toddlers, pre-schoolers, and school-age students who are doing distance learning there.

“I like getting to know each of the kids, what they like to do, and how I can help them,” said Latrice. “I am nice to them, but have to be responsible and firm so they listen to me.”

As an employer with many professional child care and teaching staff, Phyllis recognizes the importance of training people in both hard and soft skills so they can develop into a well-rounded, competent employee.

A student in Anoka-Hennepin District 11’s Bridges program, Jean Achicha recently completed a work experience at Jerry’s Do It Best Hardware Store in Ramsey, and then moved on to another at Coborn’s Superstore also in Ramsey.

Amber works with Heather Henry and other job coaches from District #11 to help Jean train in on his job duties.

Both work experiences will help give Jean, who is 19, valuable insight into retail positions as he continues to explore various industries and develop a career plan for his future.

“We appreciate the many local businesses and employers who have partnered with Rise so we can offer these valuable work experience opportunities to young adults,” said Robert. “They provide  students with critical information for their career planning.”

This article appears in the March 2021 issue of the Rise Reporter.

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