LIFT the TriState, an innovative new Freestore Foodbank program, provides free job training to individuals interested in logistics, inventory and facilities management and transportation.
“Our goal is to end the line of people who need assistance by training individuals to get jobs in a growing field and become self-reliant,” says Kurt Reiber, president and CEO of the Freestore Foodbank.
One of the unique aspects of the program is Freestore Foodbank’s partnership with Gateway Community and Technical College, the Life Learning Center and BelFlex Staffing Network.
“Students are earning a Certified Logistics Associate Certificate while learning life skills and making industry connections,” says Reiber. “As the logistics and warehousing industry continues to grow in our community, this is an ideal time to help 'lift' the economy and Tristate families.”
The free 12-week LIFT program is geared toward under- and unemployed individuals with barriers to employment. Students spend the mornings in the classroom at Life Learning Center, where they work on soft skills like interviewing and conflict resolution, as well as prepare for the CLA Certificate exam with instructors from Gateway. In the afternoons, students move to Freestore Foodbank’s Wilder distribution center for a hands-on learning experience.
“Our staff has been a tremendous asset in working with students and sharing their knowledge,” says Will McAleenan, LIFT the TriState manager. “It’s a great opportunity to train inside a working warehouse.”
In the training area at the distribution center, students learn to operate forklifts and other warehouse machinery. The program also includes field trips to other regional warehouses, including those at Amazon and DHL.
“It’s important to expose students to the world of this industry,” McAleenan says. “There is such variety in scale and work, and getting into Amazon and DHL gives students a sense of the expectations and culture.”
Industry partner BelFlex has leveraged its contacts to bring in human resource staff to conduct mock interviews with the students. In the second half of the program, students will also attend job fairs.
LIFT is Freestore Foodbank’s second workforce development program. Since 2001, Cincinnati COOKS! has offered a free 10-week culinary training program for students who are interested in the food industry. Graduates receive free advanced culinary training through Freestore Foodbank’s Second Course program and then enroll at Cincinnati State with credits toward a degree.
COOKS! and LIFT students receive wrap-around services to support them as they complete their respective programs, including transportation, benefits enrollment and rent assistance. Graduates of both programs also receive regular follow-up from Freestore Foodbank.
“There is a clamoring for people with equipment training to work in this industry but it’s not just about getting them a job,” says McAleenan. “It’s about following up to see where they are and making sure they have the skills to keep the job.”
The first class of LIFT the TriState students graduates mid-October. Applications are now being accepted for the second LIFT class, which will begin in January.