Most job skills training programs focus on getting people ready for the technical aspects of a job, yet few underscore the importance of mental health to an employee’s success. Project LIFT focuses on both. With locations in Palm City and Belle Glade, Florida, the organization helps young people in those areas better their lives through vocational training, mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment and mentoring. “Intergenerational poverty is a major challenge for most of our teens and young adults,” says Robert Zaccheo, chief executive officer of Project LIFT. “With our unique blend of job readiness, socioemotional readiness and a family-first approach, success becomes more attainable.”
To combat the personal issues that many young people grapple with — including depression, anxiety, addiction, trauma and anger management — Project LIFT employs a combination of therapy and practical training, all at no cost. Even students who have dropped out of high school can join Project LIFT and earn a diploma while learning skills that their traditional schools might not offer. “As we prepare our students for a productive life, our first priority is their mental health,” says Zaccheo. Young adults ages 14 to 21 can talk to licensed therapists while learning skills that will set them on a path toward a career, including auto repair, welding, HVAC, solar, textile printing, graphic arts, carpentry and construction. In each of these fields, students train on industry-standard equipment, which attracts local employers looking for skilled workers. The education covers interviewing skills, financial literacy and overall workplace readiness. Project LIFT’s curriculum also aims to destigmatize mental health problems.
Funding from Bank of America, part of the bank’s $1.25 billion, five-year commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity, helps support Project LIFT’s summer programs, which include paid apprenticeships as well as counseling. “With the support of corporate partners like Bank of America,” says Zaccheo, “we are not only able to fund this innovative approach to building a talented workforce, but we are also able to dream big.”