Work & Learn

Hard and Soft Skills Prepare Young People for Jobs and Life

Students repair bicycles during 12-week Work and Learn training sessions.

Students repair bicycles during 12-week Work and Learn training sessions.

Jasmine Brown plans to go to college to become a nurse or social worker. But she’s already learned the basic skills she’ll need in any profession in a Central City bicycle shop. “They teach you about work ethics…and it helps you survive for the real world,” she explains.

Brown is a graduate of the Trafigura Work and Learn Center. BCM has provided the local match to the investment made in YEP by the Switzerland-based Trafigura Foundation. Work and Learn teaches people ages 16-24 bicycle repair, retail sales, customer service, digital media design, and more importantly, how to interact in a workplace and find their voice.

Co-Founder and Executive Director Melissa Sawyer says she never assumes what basics the young people YEP serves may have already learned. “We really try to meet kids where they’re at and give them baseline about making eye contact, about shaking hands, about smiling, about greeting people about coming dressed appropriately for work and these are really foundational skills that a lot of us take for granted.”

Work and Learn students are paid during their 12 weeks of YEP training. Brown says her time there challenged her to cope with different people and attitudes in a positive way, and built a higher self-esteem. “I think the youth today…needs the support system,” she adds.

As Work and Learn prepares to open a snowball stand and healthy juice bar to teach more young people to transition to the workforce, Sawyer stresses the importance of organizations that sometimes give Opportunity Youth the first chance they’ve ever had to succeed. “If it’s not for the groups out here who really care about these kids; that they deserve the opportunity to fulfill their potential, too often, they’re not going to get the services and the help they need.”

work-and-learn2“This program has made me feel like you can do anything,” Brown says, “and I’ve been really striving to do the best I can.”