By: Mikaela Santos, 2017-2018 Work First Fellow
Mikaela is a Work First Fellow at the Staten Island office in New York. With this position, Mikaela’s responsibilities include conducting research, working on Fellowship recruitment, and serving as a Career Mentor in the America Works Staten Island office. Her office services a Career Advance program, which is designed for clients who are job-ready, have high levels of skills and education, and whose personal goals are to gain immediate employment. The office provides goal-oriented trainings, comprehensive job placement, and retention services with the intention of advancing clients’ careers.
The trainings offered at the Staten Island office include OSHA, Food Protection, Customer Service, Financial Literacy, Computer Literacy Basics, Computer Literacy Microsoft, Selling Your Strengths, and Employment Skills. Of those trainings, Mikaela mainly teaches Financial Literacy, Computer Literacy Basics, Computer Literacy Microsoft, and Employment Skills.
In Employment Skills classes, Mikaela focuses on enhancing skills that will prepare clients for employment and to re-enter the workforce. These topics include resume writing, cover letter formatting, best methods for the job search, interview practice, and other crucial skills to help clients gain and retain employment. Teaching this class on a regular basis has been a rewarding experience for Mikaela, as she is able to work with clients in a small-group setting and witness their improvement in various critical skills sets.
Since beginning her fellowship, Mikaela has developed and implemented a host of new classes for the site, including: Computer Literacy Basics, Computer Literacy Microsoft, and Financial Literacy. She created the lesson plans, activities and any additional materials needed for each class. Both computer classes have proven successful by allowing clients the opportunity to build their comfort-level with technology and computer softwares. Many individuals who attend the Computer Basics class have had little experience with computers, yet they come out of the trainings with the confidence to approach a computer and utilize its basic function—especially for job search. Meanwhile, the Computer Microsoft class is for clients with an intermediate level of knowledge with computers. Throughout this class, clients learn the basic functions of Excel, how to create presentations on PowerPoint, and how to format and design their own resumes.
The Financial Literacy class aims to help clients practice skills and develop knowledge related to budgeting, strategies for saving, managing debt, building credit, and financial services that will help them maintain financial stability. Clients have found the course to be very informative and a comfortable space in which to discuss the complexities of financial responsibility.
The feedback and discussion from her Financial Literacy classes inform Mikaela’s research project concerning financial access and literacy among low-income populations. Her project has two components: financial literacy trainings and the usage of a mobile banking application created by FinClusive Capital, in order to create a program directed specifically for low-income populations and their needs.
Mikaela is excited for the implementation of her research project in the coming months and to continue working with clients at her site to gain meaningful and sustainable employment.