For nearly 20 years, Better Family Life Inc. has offered workforce training opportunities that have provided thousands of individuals with skills needed for jobs ranging from entry-level to management-level in high-performance work environments.
“We work with predominantly low-income and low-skilled individuals that lack self-esteem and confidence,” said Darryl Grimes, BFL’s vice president for Workforce Development.
“We have month-long training for every participant in the program. They receive very personalized training, not just in writing resumes or doing mock interviews, but also exposing them to information such as self-care, relationship management, conflict management, etc. Different subject matter experts and family counselors come in and share their experience and expertise to help them cope with various socioeconomic-related stress and trauma.”
Grimes said that approximately 5,000 individuals and families are assisted through BFL programs offered in St. Louis City and County. Participants are ready for jobs in a variety of industries, such as medical assistance, construction laborer, retail, services, customer service, hospitality, etc. The average salary is $22,000.
Currently, most of BFL’s workforce training has been through the Missouri Work Assistance program (MWA). It offers services such as assessment, case management, individual employment plan development, training and employment placement.
Recently, BFL has begun providing more targeted career path through independent programs like the small business development and the customer service/call center programs.
The Entrepreneurial Training and Support program was established in fall 2013. Initially, the program targeted the MWA participants.
“There was a lot of interest among these participants to learn about starting and running a business,” Grimes noted. “Based on the feedback and focus groups, we started the 12-week Small Business Development program in partnership with the Center for the Acceleration of African-American Business.”
This program starts with a week-long workshop that covers critical aspects of business ownership, and is followed by a six-week mentorship program, during which participants work one-on-one with a business coach and attend business-related workshops. They also develop business plans and determine financial needs.
“Currently, we are operating our fifth session,” Grimes said “We started out with five participants, and now we have more than 60 people wanting to be in the class every session.”
Local partners such as BioStl, CIC/CET and Square One have shown interest in collaborating.
“They understand that we are creating an ecosystem for the most under-represented entrepreneurs in the city,” Grimes said.
He noted that the demand for the program has further grown due to the Carrollton Bank BFL Micro Loan Fund, to which participants have access once they complete the training and their business plan. BFL also partners with other agencies such as the Balsa Foundation that provide capital for start-up businesses.
The BFL Business Development Center was officially launched in October 2016, and has been a revolving door ever since, according to Grimes.
BFL’s most recent initiative, the Daruby Call Center Representative Certification course, currently is in its second round of training. The course is funded through the Centene Foundation and Accenture. Capacity for this six-week program is 15 participants. The 10 participants in the most recent session are now all in the interview phase for full-time positions.
The course is offered at three locations, 5415 Page Blvd. (314-367-3440), 715 Northwest Plaza Drive in St. Ann (314-615-0619), and 3555 Ritz Center in south St. Louis County (314-679-3361).
Grimes said that plans also are in the works to add training in the construction field to provide more diverse opportunities for participants.
Most programs currently are free of charge; however, as programs become independent, Grimes said there will be fees for service using a sliding scale based on income.
For more information about these and other Better Family Life programs and services, call 314-367-3440 or visit www.betterfamilylife.org.