Bridges Job Readiness Program at Mercy Health - St. John Receives Grant from The Women's Fund of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation

(CINCINNATI; June 23, 2014) – Mercy Health, which provides advanced, quality, compassionate care in your neighborhood through its care network, announces that The Women’s Fund of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation has awarded a $1,500 grant to the Bridges job readiness program at Mercy Health – St. John, a social service agency.

St. John will use the grant money to provide students with transportation assistance and flash drives to aid their computer-based learning.

The Bridges Program at Mercy Health – St. John works to address long-term unemployment by helping its students overcome all the obstacles they face in finding employment: marketable skills, experience, references, good health, appearance, transportation and more.

The Bridges Program is a 12-week job readiness course that St. John offers at no cost to up to 60 low-income adult students at a time. Men and women from three states and 27 different zip codes have graduated from the program, which is flexible to fit around different schedules, offering courses morning, afternoon and evening. It has room for more students to enroll and take the first steps toward a better life.

“We focus on soft, transferable skills and use the adult learning model – demonstrate, complete the task together, student completes the task by his or herself,” says Cheryl Damon-Greiner, who developed the curriculum and leads the Bridges Program together with instructor Michael Rawls.

Over the course of the hands-on, personalized program, Bridges students will master typing and learn to work in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint as they tackle real world assignments in payroll, shipping, billing and much more. They will write their resumes and learn how to use the internet and email for job searches and applications. Before graduation, they will also complete a 20-hour internship at one of 38 different non-profit agencies or businesses to build their resumes and gain experience and professional references. Through these internships, St. John students give back more than 2,000 hours each year to the community.

St. John builds professional development days into the program and students benefit from hearing local business leaders discuss interviewing, business etiquette, finances, HR practices, education and other job readiness topics. Students also undergo Myers-Briggs testing to learn more about their personality type and transferable job skills.

But St. John’s recognizes that job skills aren’t the only things their students need to succeed. Many students haven’t been able to afford to see a doctor in years and some have been rushed from class for immediate treatment for issues including dangerously high blood pressure. Others can’t afford to dress for an interview or pay for transportation to and from interviews.

“The average age of our students is 50 and many are facing poverty for the first time through an unexpected job loss, divorce or a health issue,” says Damon-Greiner. “You are more likely to secure a job and keep it if you feel well and look your best and our program addresses those issues, as well as job readiness to ensure our students are ready and able to enter the workforce again.”
The Bridges Program helps qualified students not just with job readiness training but also with referrals to St. John’s medical clinic, vision exams, glasses, transportation assistance to get to and from class and work, mental health counseling, personal care items, food and interview appropriate clothing.

“The generous grant from The Women’s Fund of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation will help us provide these extra services that help our students re-enter the workforce and succeed,” says Damon-Greiner.

The Bridges Program graduated 90 students from its spring and summer sessions in 2013. The students’ overall computer skills improved by 85% based on pre- and post-course testing. A follow-up survey showed that 77% of respondents had found jobs. With unemployment among the poor and unskilled remaining high and low incomes associated with lower life expectancy, Mercy Health – St. John’s Bridges Program is making a difference for the better in our community.

Program Requirements - students must be:
• 18 or older
• Actively seeking employment
• Have a high school diploma or GED
• Meet financial guidelines (income at 200% or less of the federal poverty guideline)

For more information, please call the Bridges program at 513-981-5826.