CLEVELAND — Research finds that the two biggest barriers to getting and staying employed are childcare and transportation. In Cleveland, census data shows about a quarter of residents do not own a car.
Änd that's where Lyft's new Jobs Access Program comes into play.
The rideshare company partnered with nonprofits in 35 cities across the country, including Cleveland, to offer vouchers for free rides to job interviews and the first few weeks of work.
"Students aren't looking for a handout. They're looking to step into the employment system and work their way up," said Sean Segal, chief operating officer at the nonprofit Generation.
Generation recruits, trains, and places people into new careers. In Cleveland, they work with the nonprofit Youth Opportunities Unlimited, or Y.O.U.
Students take a 5-week job training course that teaches them everything from resume-building and interviewing, to managing savings and checkings account. Segal said they focus on people ages 19 to 29 looking for their first career, or older individuals who are trying to re-enter the workforce. About 70 percent of their outreach is through social media -- using Snapchat, Instagram and Google to find students.
The course is completely free.
Segal said it is funded through a mix of money—public dollars that go toward workforce development and employers like Huntington Bank and Cardinal Health who want to find entry-level talent.
Segal added that he hopes more employers begin to take a look at a wider range of candidates.
"And say, 'Does this role really need a college degree? Do I really need 3 years of experience or can I hire someone who’s just put themselves through a bootcamp, they’ve committed, they’ve showed up everyday.' We need more employers to be willing to do that," Segal said, adding that 76 percent of Generation grads stay with their jobs for more than a year. The careers are typically in the service industry, call centers, banking -- ones that have a fast track for advancement, Segal said
For Daniqwa Martin, 22, the Generation program and their partnership with Lyft has been a game-changer.
Martin is coming up on six months as a service worker at the Cleveland Clinic.
"It's a good program, it's very good," Martin said. "I probably wouldn't have had a job if I didn't have that Lyft ride."
Martin said even after the 5-week course was over, she still received a lot of support from Generation and her instructor, giving her the confidence she needed.
"Just don’t take it for granted," Martin said. "It can open up a lot of job opportunities, and it might make you a better person in the end."