Site Update: Jamaica Queens, New York

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By: Laurel Aberle, 2017-2018 Work First Fellow


In our Jamaica office in New York, we have our Work First Fellow Laurel Aberle. Laurel’s main role as a trainer within the Jamaica office is leading a variety of the offered America Works courses, with additional responsibilities of providing college counseling and conducting research for her fellowship project.


Two programs reside in our Jamaica office: Career Advance and Career Advance Homeless. While both programs aim to help adult clients receive training with the intent of securing jobs, the latter program is designed specifically for clients who do not have permanent housing. To best help clients attain jobs, the Jamaica site offers eight different training classes, ranging from soft skills to vocational skills. These classes include Customer Service, CVS Pharmacy training, Employment Skills, Selling Your Strengths, Pre-High School Equivalency, Food Handler’s training, CDL-C training, and OSHA.


Laurel teaches both the Food Handler’s training as well as the Pre-High School Equivalency course. The Food Handler’s Training walks clients through the material necessary to attain a Food Handler’s Certificate from the New York State Department of Health. This certificate is required for many food service positions and opens many doors for our job-seeking clients, including higher pay and more job opportunities. The Pre-High School Equivalency course offers training for clients looking to attain their High School Equivalency diploma (more commonly referred to as a GED). Laurel prepares clients for all five subjects tested on the TASC exam and helps register them when ready. Teaching this course has been particularly rewarding for Laurel, as she is able to provide clients with guidance and support as they dedicate themselves to this goal. She feels privileged to work with many clients who are working towards an achievement that will truly change their lives. Given that this class is a six-week course, Laurel is able to build relationships with her clients, which only makes watching them succeed more exciting! She also loves her role in college counseling for this reason—after helping her clients earn their HSE diploma, Laurel helps many of them apply to college to further their education.


For her fellowship project, Laurel is researching the intersection of vocational training and mental health/substance abuse rehabilitation. America Works of New York is unique in its ability to offer vocational services to clients while they receive mental health/substance abuse treatment, via a partnership with Weill Cornell. Though emerging research is further supporting this idea that vocational training is beneficial to patients going through treatment, not many welfare programs continue to offer such training while clients go through treatment, and not many treatment programs offer a treatment structure that allows patients to partake in vocational training. Laurel will be examining this partnership program, investigating the benefits it provides to our clients, as well as finding ways to continually improve it.


Laurel’s experience as a fellow has been rewarding personally and professionally and she is excited to continue working with clients, offering trainings, and conducting her research.