Youth and young adults experiencing homelessness (YYAEH) already face barriers to employment, but the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated those difficulties. In an increasingly virtual world, finding a job is no longer a matter of knocking on doors or spotting “Now Hiring” signs.

That’s why Rising Together – at the prompting of YYAEH members of its steering committee – created the Virtual Career Opportunity Series, a series of online job readiness workshops culminating in a virtual job fair. Held every Wednesday from July 15 to August 5, these events drew an average of 73 young people each. Participants, including YYAEH as well as opportunity youth, received $15 payments per event for signing up early and attending in full. In post-event surveys, a majority of participants reported that they had encountered new information in these events and would recommend them to others.

“The part that I really like the most about this program is that they give out information to those who are experiencing homelessness or housing instability,” wrote one participant who is currently housed. “I personally don’t know anyone that has this issue but there’s always a chance of that happening, so I appreciate that they are trying to give out as much information as possible to as many people as possible.”

The first three events focused on job search topics determined by focus groups of young people. Presented by Malik Gomes and Courtney Kinney of YOU Boston, these workshops focused on: Building a Resume, Nailing the Job Interview, and Coping Strategies. The workshop content, created by Rising Together and YOU Boston, was so well-received, that career coaches from the Learn & Earn Internship track of Boston’s Summer Youth Employment Program also began using the presentation with their youth participants.

“The training that focused on building resumes was particularly valuable,” said career coach Elisabeth Kotsalidis. “It made the task of building or editing a resume seem much more manageable because it explained every step and provided tangible tips.”

These workshops prepared participants for the final event in the Virtual Career Opportunity Series: the virtual job fair. Six local employers presented on career opportunities with their organizations. Tailoring their information for a YYAEH audience, they also reviewed such practical considerations as employee lockers and clothing options. These presentations were followed by a question-and-answer session and opportunities for participants to forward their resumes to any of the participating employers.

Videos and powerpoint slides of the are available on the Rising Together webpage.

A special thank you to all of the organizations who made these events possible: YOU Boston, Boston Youth Action Board, the Rising Together steering committee, Liberty Mutual Foundation, Heartland Alliance, The Greater Boston Food Bank, Marshalls, Pine Street Inn, Starbucks, UPS, and Wegmans.

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