An Indiana nonprofit social service agency is looking to boost to its vocational program for at-risk teenagers. Wabash-based White’s Residential & Family Services has established a Workforce Development Advisory Team to continue to build on its Growing Teens for Life program, which prepares teens for both the workforce and adulthood.
The team is comprised of business leaders, educational professionals and community advocates.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Director of Donor Stewardship Shane Whybrew said the advisory team will be able to help overcome growth challenges.
“There are things that we do to give our students opportunities to succeed when they leave White’s,” said Whybrew. “We have some opportunities that are very accessible for our students, but we have some obstacles in the way, too, of creating new certificate programs, whether it would be a CNA program, whether it would be culinary arts, or welding or what opportunities we should align with our student body. And this advisory team will help us think through and be strategic about adding new certificate programs for the benefit of our students.”
White’s Residential & Family Services serves teens between the ages of 14 and 18 who have been ordered by a court to live at the White’s campus in Wabash. The organization says it works to equip the teens with the tools they need to live independently and contribute to their communities.
The Growing Teens for Life program was established in 2012 to provide students with industry-based certifications, work experience and help them earn financial incentives to help them get started once they leave the campus.
“It’s important for our kids because many of them will leave our residential treatment program and potentially be on their on own,” said Denae Green, director of engagement at White’s. “So when you have young men and women leaving and needing to kind of start a live and put into practice their recovery skills and the things that they’ve learned here therapeutically and start that adulthood experience, a key part of being an adult is having a job and being able to keep a job and to pay for the things that you need.”
The campus, which sits on 600 acres in Wabash, includes a coffee shop at which students can work while also earning certification as barista.
Green says programs such as that creates confidence as they move away from the campus and go out to find a job.
“We hear a lot of confidence and a lot about…the opportunity to kind of work out the kinks in a safe environment where they’re able to kind of mess up at a job and we can teach them and educate them and it’s not so critical. They’re able to learn and manage and leave with some real confidence and real skills.”
Green says the short-term goal of the program was to create a curriculum and add certification programs to prepare students for the workforce. She says the advisory team will help focus on the program’s long-term vision.
“What do these businesses need? What are the strengths and opportunities that are out there for the workforce that our kids could fill and how could they be a part of shaping that future for them and for us. I think part of this team really is to help us create that long-term vision and to put new programs in place over time that will address and meet the needs of the businesses and programs that are looking for workers.”
Whybrew says the advisory team will be able to help overcome growth challenges.
Green says the program is about building confidence in the students.