Twin Cities R!SE Settling Into Midway Location

Twin Cities R!SE Settling Into Midway Location

April 14, 2016  (Published in the St. Paul Midway-Como Monitor)
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Article and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

The Spruce Tree Center at Snelling and University avenues has a new tenant: the St. Paul branch of Twin Cities R!SE (TCR). The 22-year-old organization works with the hardest to employ segment of the population, including those who are homeless or recently incarcerated. TCR provides education, training, and support to make finding, and keeping, jobs a reality for its graduates.

Founder and Board Chair Steve Rothschild once said, “This is an organization with the heart of a non-profit, and the head of a business.” Rothschild, a top executive who retired at 46 from General Mills, dreamed of heading up his own business when he left the corporate world. Always deeply involved in community issues, Rothschild’s retirement dream turned to social entrepreneurship when he founded TCR in 1994.

Photo right: Keith Simons, Empowerment Institute Director, and Tina Rockett, Work Skills Coach, in the St. Paul Twin Cities R!SE offices. The non-profit has two sites: this one in the Midway area and the other in North Minneapolis.

Building careers
TCR is an anti-poverty job training program. Its mission is to transform lives through meaningful employment. Graduates have been employed by companies as diverse as American Express, Best Buy Regions Hospital, and Valspar Paints.

To be accepted into TCR, participants must be able to work legally in the US; have earned income that did not exceed $25,000 in the past 12 months; demonstrate English fluency and basic literacy; have a high school diploma or GED; and have no criminal sexual conduct or arson charges on their record.

Training is offered free of charge in a wide range of work skills areas. One-on-one coaching helps students stay on track, and can continue even after employment begins. Classes on resume and cover letter writing, job searching and interviewing are also available.

In addition to working with individuals, TCR also contracts with businesses to help them develop a skilled labor pool. In one such example, the Metro Transit Company acknowledged that 55% of their employees were 55+, white and male—and starting to retire in record numbers (the “Silver-Tsunami “ phenomenon).

MTC partnered with TCR to create the Metro Transit Technician Training Program; this one-year program prepares candidates for the two-year Associate’s degree for truck mechanics at North Hennepin Community College, leading to a career as a bus mechanic with MTC.

This partnership benefits both TCR participants and the MTC. As of now, more than 30 mechanic positions go unfilled each year at MTC due to lack of qualified candidates. After completing the technician training program, there is a skilled, diverse labor pool ready to meet employer needs. It’s a win-win situation.

Empowering lives
Keith Simons is the director of TCR’s Empowerment Institute. He explained, “You’ve heard of being at the bottom rung of the career ladder? For many of our clients, TCR is the ‘on-ramp’ for getting to that bottom rung. It’s a place to start.“

Photo left: Students in one of Rockett’s work skills courses improve their computer skills.

Personal empowerment training is what sets TCR apart from other job training programs. Simons said, “In our culture, we’re constantly bombarded by messages, and most of them are messages of failure. “

One program graduate named Angel said, “I was looking for work, and couldn’t find anything. I was feeling helpless and hopeless. When I got to TCR, I gravitated toward the Personal Empowerment Training. The more positive thoughts I believed about myself, the more things started changing for me.” Shortly after enrolling in works skills and empowerment training at TCR, Angel got a full-time job with benefits in a call center.

“The things I learned at TCR made me a stronger, more employable person,” Angel said.
The personal empowerment training teaches students how to work with their inner selves. According to Simons, four “building block” areas are addressed: self-awareness, self-control, awareness of others (developing empathy and compassion), and relationship management. The staff at TCR believe that while work skills development may help land a job, it’s the personal empowerment training that helps graduates keep a job.

Ending poverty
A TCR participant isn’t considered a graduate until they’ve been on the job successfully for at least 12 months. Program statistics indicate that 84% of participants did just that in 2015. By comparison, the national average is 39% for participants in similar programs.
“Our graduates earn an average of $27,000 annually, not including benefits,” Simons said. “That’s a big step up and out of poverty, and remember these are folks who are considered the most difficult to employ.”

For information about volunteer opportunities, including classroom assisting or hosting an intern in your workplace, contact Chelsea at 612-279-5828. For information about the Empowerment Institute, contact Keith Simons at 612-279-5831. TCR’s Empowerment Institute is offering a new empowerment course for leaders—designed for executives, management and open to the public.

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