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“Why can’t they just get a job!”


This often heard mantra is popular among parents with a listless teenager hooked on video games or a young adult still living at home whose primary activity is slacking.  It is often directed towards individuals who are on welfare, the folks standing at the intersections with their cardboard signs, and young men who are just hanging out on the streets: “Why can’t they just GET A JOB.”


Underlying this statement is the belief that a job offers someone a way to support oneself and others. It also can provide a sense of purpose, a way to contribute to the good of society, and the means to develop one’s potential. Unfortunately for many, there are significant barriers to “getting a job,” which is why Steepletown launched the JobStart initiative. These barriers often include the lack of a high school diploma, a felony record, poor credit, little or no work history, behavioral and mental health challenges, unstable housing, and no driver’s license — to name a few.


The primary activity of JobStart is to provide an on-boarding experience to work. The job becomes the platform to develop the skills that employers expect, such as taking responsibility and initiative, working in teams, problem-solving, and self-regulation. Steepletown provides this opportunity through one of its social enterprises and/or community partnerships. Participants in JobStart are also involved in academic skill development in order to make them more marketable in an economy requiring higher levels of education and training by employers. The ultimate goal of JobStart is to improve the economic opportunities and outcomes for some of the more difficult to employ young adults in our community.


JobStart has evolved out of Steepletown’s nearly 10 years of experience in working with youth and young adults in the area of workforce development. Steepletown published a report in partnership with the GR Urban League back in August of 2014; read “Two Challenges, One Solution.” Steepletown is also very much involved in various community conversations to address the lack of participation in employment by certain segments of our community. Steepletown is grateful to the Wege Foundation and the City of Grand Rapids for their financial support for JobStart.