07 Mar Q&A with STRIVE International’s Greg Wise on STRIVE Evolution in New Orleans

striveNOLABA is leading a new business model for economic development that includes workforce development through the integration of the Network for Economic Opportunity’s programming into NOLABA. Since the integration, NOLABA is now the license holder for STRIVE in New Orleans, a program launched in 2015 as an affiliate of STRIVE International, a job readiness training program founded in 1984 that has placed 70,000 job seekers into employment nationwide. National Vice President Greg Wise spoke with NOLABA about what’s ahead for STRIVE in New Orleans, including the first graduating class from JOB1 on March 19: 

NOLABA: What exactly does the CORE curriculum teach disadvantaged job seekers?

striveWise: “CORE – STRIVE’s four-week, signature workshop that consists of attitudinal, professional and work readiness training – empowers participants to engage in positive social behaviors. Be it with their families, employers or communities, the program aims to instill values that are critical to their personal and professional futures. This includes developing a practice of long-term self-assessment and evaluation and affirming positive life-skills that promote work-readiness. Participants develop a key aptitude for workplace communications, interpersonal and teamwork skills, critical thinking and problem solving skills, as well as knowledge on how to interview and develop a career plan. CORE incorporates best practices based on evidence from various fields and serves as a foundation for each participant to meet the high expectations of the program. What makes the CORE program distinct is it is fundamentally a cognitive behavioral intervention delivered in a work-simulated environment, offering participants the opportunity to demonstrate their career readiness in a supportive and accountable environment.”

NOLABA: What are your impressions of STRIVE in New Orleans and how it’s evolved since 2015, and what do you see ahead?

Wise: “When Mayor Landrieu’s administration brought STRIVE to the City of New Orleans in 2015 you could feel the energy in the room as the community responded to the new program. The first ever STRIVE class in New Orleans was held at the Treme Center’s gymnasium, and if you stood outside the Center at 8:30 in the morning you would start to see program participants, one by one and in small groups, in full business appropriate attire, walking down each street in the balmy Louisiana heat to be a part of the first ever class of a new career readiness training program they’d never heard of and that had never been offered in New Orleans before. Every day they’d help the Program Director, Angela Shiloh-Cryer, and STRIVE Trainer, Patrick Young, set up the gymnasium as a classroom for this program that promised to provide support and training that would prepare them for the jobs that could support a real change in their lives.

“The program continued to grow and thrive, becoming a destination in the Central Business District for people who wanted to change their lives through the power of work. With NOLABA now coordinating job seeker talent development across all five Opportunity Centers, as well as its traditional role of engaging businesses and promoting local hiring, the potential impact of the initiative is huge. With all five Opportunity Centers utilizing the STRIVE model as the common job readiness program, the employer community can expect consistent and high-quality candidates to address their need for talent at a scale that was previously unattainable. We are also excited about the possibilities that come with shared professional learning experiences and deeper collaboration that can be promoted around multiple sites. The future of job seeker talent development and local hiring is incredibly bright in New Orleans, and STRIVE is proud to partner with NOLABA, Total Community Action, the Urban League of Louisiana, Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Louisiana, and JOB1 (operated by ResCare), and STRIVE NOLA to help make this innovative vision a reality in service to the City of New Orleans.”

NOLABA: How does the way New Orleans uses the STRIVE model in multiple Opportunity Centers serve as an example for the rest of the country?

Wise: “What is happening in New Orleans is a unique example of policy, practice and shared vision coming together to address community hiring and employment needs, and promoting the type of systems enhancements for all stakeholders. The City of New Orleans, the Network for Economic Opportunity and its Opportunity Center partners, and now NOLABA have taken an innovative and ambitious approach to addressing this issue. There’s a big idea being implemented here in New Orleans–about what it means for a city to truly support and connect its residents with jobs and meet the hiring needs of employers. For the clients served through our collaboration, it provides an opportunity for individuals to gain living-wage employment, support their families and attain economic self-sufficiency. The multiple site model in New Orleans also provides STRIVE and our collaborators an opportunity to develop a common city framework for our practice, as well as shared standards and expectations for our clients.

“Because STRIVE NOLA is grounded in partnerships, we can work together with a broader scope to meet community needs. With more than one affiliate site, STRIVE and our partners will have the ability to meet the needs of individuals and the greater community that is tailored to local economies. It will also allow us to work with employers from various industries such as hospitality and the culinary arts, construction, and healthcare. Our new vision of workforce development – taking shape in the City of New Orleans – is to be comprehensive and impactful. NOLABA is a great place to make that happen.”