When Devante moved to Ithaca this fall from Pennsylvania, he immediately went to The Learning Web, one of Historic Ithaca’s Work Preserve partners, to get help looking for a job. Rick Alvord, The Learning Web’s Education and Employment Case Manager, told Devante about a four-month apprenticeship opportunity with Significant Elements. The chance to work in a warehouse and with his hands appealed to the recent high school grad. “Sara [Johnson, Significant Elements and Work Preserve Job Training Manager] told me that I’d be doing a different thing every day: cleaning up around the store, cleaning furniture, going on deliveries, building things. I like the variety,” explains Devante.
Devante has enjoyed working closely with Work Preserve Warehousing and Traditional Skills Educator Peter Walz. The pair recently constructed a plant stand together, going around the store and picking out components and then crafting them into a finished piece that went directly onto the sales floor. Devante appreciated the collaborative process, especially being able to make critical design decisions. “When you’re making something, you have a say in what it looks like. With a regular job, you wouldn’t have that,” he points out. Devante hopes to learn more from Peter, including chair seat cane weaving and gaining a basic knowledge about how to identify and date vintage items.
Next up for Devante is a stint as a retail apprentice in the Significant Elements store. He’ll be learning the ropes of online sales and social media promotion thanks to grant funding from the Community Foundation’s Tompkins Today and Tomorrow Fund. Devante will be “an equal partner in the process,” notes Sara. “We’re expanding Significant Elements’ online presence through a variety of platforms. Devante and I will focus on enhancing Facebook and Instagram sales and marketing and he’ll work with sales associate Robert Rector to expand our Etsy shop, which specializes in hard-to-find lighting and hardware. With Devante’s help, we’ll be able to offer more of our unique merchandise to a national and international market.”
Devante, who had been in foster care and then homeless for a time, now has his own apartment and is building valuable job skills through his part-time apprenticeship. In his transition to living independently, he’s gotten a needed boost from his Work Preserve mentors. “They go the extra mile for you,” affirms Devante. “I’ve had a lot of jobs, and I can’t name a job that’s done as much for me.” Sara and Work Preserve and Education Outreach Coordinator Karen Coleman helped him track down a needed identity document and even provided work boots, gloves, and warm socks so that he could perform his duties more effectively. “It shows that they’re willing to help you out,” concludes Devante.
Thanks to the support he’s received from The Learning Web and Work Preserve, Devante feels that he’s in a more stable place in his life. “I went from homeless to having my own place and having a job,” he says proudly. Although he’s not sure what he’ll be doing after his apprenticeship is finished in a few months, he’s focused on learning the most he can at Work Preserve. The Work Preserve program has a proven track record of placing apprentices in new jobs. When Devante’s apprenticeship nears completion, Sara will work with him to apply for job opportunities that are a good fit for his skills and interests. After he starts a new job, the Work Preserve team is always available to provide support and mentorship to help him retain employment and advance in his next opportunity.
To support the Work Preserve program’s ongoing efforts to help young adults like Devante make the transition to employment and financial independence, please click here to make your gift now.
Additional funding for Work Preserve has been provided by the City of Ithaca Community Development Block Grant program, Park Foundation, Bank of America Foundation, Community Foundation of Tompkins County, and Social Ventures.