JEVS Project WOW (World of Work) — a program that offers free skills training, job placement assistance, and high school diploma test preparation for Philadelphia youth ages 18–24 — started a new cohort on Monday, going completely online for the first time in the program’s history.
As participants of the program, students choose between two different job training options: Property Maintenance and Repair (PMR), or Information Technology (IT). Usually both options include a fair amount of “hands on” training at Orleans Technical College (OTC), where the program is based, and where students learn to safely use the tools of trades.
“Hopefully we will be back at OTC before the program is over,” said instructor Douglas Moore. “For now, we are going to start with theory and fundamentals so they can get an understanding of safety and hand tools. They will do some reading, watch some videos, and I am going to demonstrate how the tools are used. Then I’ll test them on what we are talking about.”
All of that will start in the third week of the program. For the first two weeks, the sessions will focus on professional development, where students will learn soft skills like time management, resumé writing and communication skills. They will also be introduced to Google Classroom where academic instruction will take place.
“Look around your neighborhood, who else is getting their high school diploma and trade certification in six months?”
The program was originally set to start in-person classes in early March, but the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic changed that. The staff kept in close contact with the students who were supposed to start while they strategized a way to get the program started remotely.
There are 22 students in this cohort, most of whom have some access to technology, and the program is looking into funding to provide laptops for those who don’t.
In addition to professional skills development and tool safety training, students will also receive a mix of one-on-one and small group academic instruction from Academic Facilitator Alicia Porter. All of the students will also begin Penn Foster, an online high school where they will earn a high school diploma.
In addition, PMR students will work on OSHA 10 and Hilti Gun Certifications. The IT students will work on obtaining their ICDL (International Computer Drivers License) and will receive a Certificate of Completion.
As the Youth Program Coordinator for Project WOW for the past 16 years, Sylvia Ocasio encourages the students to seize the opportunity and stick with it. “Look around your neighborhood, who else is doing what you are doing right now? Who else is getting their high school diploma and trade certification in six months?”
Her encouragement electrifies the students. During morning check-in on the first day of class, students were asked to rate their motivation level on a scale of 1 to 10. Almost all of them said 10. “I’m a 15,” said one participant. “I’m pumped. It was hard to wake up, but I’m ready to get on a work schedule from now on.”