Feature Story: Jobs Well Done… STRIVE Program Gives Chronically Unemployed the Tools for Placement

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL, March 31, 2011, 11:45 a.m. – Yael, 28, knew what her biggest challenge would be when she entered the “boot camp for life” at the STRIVE employment program in Jerusalem, Israel.  It was just one minute of public speaking – standing up, making eye contact and addressing her fellow trainees. 

Her fear of doing so was one of the reasons that brought her to the program in the first place.  “I never could do public speaking,” said Yael (pictured on right). That’s one of the reasons I did not want to go to job interviews.” 

So there she sat, waiting.  Just her luck, she was one of the last ones called upon to speak.  

“I could not stand up,” she recalled. “My legs were shaking.  I went to get fresh air, came back and fainted.  I was taken to the hospital.   But I came back the next day and did it.” 

But Yael’s challenges started long before her speaking engagement at STRIVE, which helps chronically unemployed young adults who have not worked for six months or longer gain access to employment opportunities. 

She is a divorced mother of two.  She tried different jobs – “a lot of false starts,” she recalled. Her schedule as a single mom got in the way and, when she finally found a job she liked, her son broke his arm and she lost it. 

“I moved in with my parents,” she said.  “I needed to take care of my family and my future.  A welfare agent sent me to STRIVE and said, ‘As long as you commit yourself and survive one month.’” 

Needless to say, it was a very challenging month, but she got through it.  STRIVE also helped her write her resume and learn how to dress for and answer questions at her interviews. She landed a job heading a customer service team at a cell phone company and has now been working for two years.  She has been able to balance her work and home life. 

“Mekatze le katze…  It changed my life, from one end to the other,” she said, smiling. 

Yael hopes to pursue a degree in business management. 

Of nearly 750,000 Israelis absent from the workplace, nearly one-third is young adults, ages 22 to 35.  Adapted from a model developed in East Harlem, N.Y., STRIVE is based on a disciplined self-help approach that provides targeted support and training, including job placement and follow-up. The program has a placement rate with 70 percent of those placed retaining jobs for at least one year. 

That includes Yael, who had no problem telling her story – with eye contact – to a group of JFNA marketing directors on their recent mission to Israel.

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