A Jobs Program with a Spiritual Twist

Pastor Sylvester Robinson

Pastor Sylvester Robinson, seen preaching at his Love Fellowship Christian Church, also leads Jobs Partnership of Florida training sessions. Photos by Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Photos by Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR
Makisha Olden

Makisha Olden, a single mother who formerly lived in subsidized housing, is a graduate of the Jobs Partnership of Florida. She now works at Florida Hospital in Orlando and is studying to be a pharmacy technician. hide caption

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Allen Baldwin

Allen Baldwin, a former drug dealer, is another graduate of the program. He now works as a salesman at recycling company. hide caption

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Marc Stanakis

Marc Stanakis, executive director of the Jobs Partnership of Florida, says it's surprisingly easy to find jobs for his graduates. With a 3 percent unemployment rate in Orlando, he says, companies are desperate for trained workers. hide caption

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In Orlando, Fla., single moms, recovering drug addicts and others who need help finding jobs are turning to a worker-training program with a spiritual twist.

It teaches practical skills, such as resume writing and job-interview tips. But, with the help of a local pastor, participants also get lessons in attitude and character.

Pastor Sylvester Robinson volunteers for the Jobs Partnership of Florida, a faith-based group that believes the path out of poverty is through spiritual transformation.

Since 2000, more than 600 people have graduated from Jobs Partnership in Florida. The program says it has placed 70 percent of them in a career-path job. More than 3,000 people have gone through Jobs Partnership training in 25 cities across the country.

Allen Baldwin is one of the program's success stories. His father went to prison when he Baldwin was 8, and his mother left soon after. He began dealing drugs at 15 and ended up in juvenile detention at 17.

At 28, happened upon Robinson's church and committed his life to Jesus. But the only job Baldwin had ever held was selling drugs. And so his pastor steered Baldwin into the Jobs Partnership.

Asked to name the most key insight from the program, Baldwin says: "Integrity. What would you do when the boss is not looking? What would you do when you don't have to come in a certain time and you don't have to leave — you don't have to clock in or clock out?… So integrity is a big thing to me and I believe when nobody's watching, God is watching."

After Baldwin completed the program, Jobs Partnership placed him with a small recycling company. Baldwin began as a driver moving around carpet underlay. Now he's a salesman.

One employer that has found success with the program is Orlando's Florida Hospital. In the past five years, the hospital has hired 35 graduates. Judy Bond, the hospital's human resources director, says three out of four of the hires from the program have gone on to get more training — becoming nurses or sonogram technicians, for example — and moving up from entry-level jobs.

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