Solve Is a Connecter

How Solve helps bridge the gap between people and the resources they need

Meet Akia: Akia landed her dream job in the technology field and found housing by working with Solve’s partners, i.c.stars and the Chester David Group.

Akia was working as a call center representative when she first heard of i.c.stars. The program, a rigorous technology-based workforce development and leadership training curriculum, seemed like the perfect way for her to transition from a customer service job to a technology-focused career.

Throughout the program, Akia learned hard skills, like coding, website and mobile application development, javascript frameworks, and business planning, while also gaining critical life skills such as personal finance, leadership, and interview practice. Akia was also able to develop a better understanding of how working in the technology field would differ from her prior experience in customer service.

i.c.stars connects participants with career opportunities in the technology industry through their social enterprise and partner organizations, internship placements, and daily discussions with employees in the field. This helped Akia gain experience in the industry and exposed her to new types of jobs to explore after the program.

For Akia, the program was life-changing but also full of sacrifice. The days were long—12 hours of learning, studying, and team-building. And on top of long days, Akia was commuting to Chicago from northern Indiana, traveling two to three hours each way every day.

But the long days paid off. After graduating from i.c.stars in February 2017, Akia worked as a freelance web developer at a media production company in Bronzeville, where she had a hand in developing and running the company’s website. This gave her an opportunity to implement the new skills she gained and provided her the experience she needed to take her career even further, landing her dream job as a technical specialist at Apple where she has worked since the fall.

Despite her career growth, Akia still had long, daily commutes and faced difficulty finding housing. She tried to find an apartment closer to work, but hit countless barriers—she’d been living with family in Indiana so her name wasn’t on any prior leases, she didn’t have any rental history, and had some credit issues.

“Nobody wanted to give me a chance because I didn’t have any history,” Akia confessed as her long commute continued to be a strain on her productivity and well-being.

She confided to mentors at i.c.stars and Solve CEO, Matt Strauss, who knew that together they could help Akia solve this issue. Through Solve’s partnership with the Chester David Group, Matt and her i.c.stars case manager were able to connect Akia with a property manager who quickly helped her find an apartment to rent in South Shore, shortening her commute and alleviating unnecessary stress. Reflecting on her experience, Akia recounts:

“The connections I made in the last year have been a blessing dropped into my life. If I hadn’t gotten the call to come sign this lease I don’t know where I would be.”

Chester David Group founder, Todd Smith, says “Meeting tenants like Akia and being able to help them with the most basic need, housing, gives us purpose and a sense of community with the neighborhoods that we serve.  It also allows tenants like her to be successful because the stress of finding and residing in a quality apartment has been taken care of.”

That is the gap Solve aims to fill: facilitating communication and referrals between nonprofits and businesses to help connect people with the services they need—whether it is housing, workforce training, social work, or legal counseling. A multifaceted digital software, Solve makes it easier for nonprofits, businesses, and agencies to connect clients to services, resources, jobs, and other opportunities throughout the city—and we measure everyone’s collective impact in the community.

Struggling to find housing is a challenge that is not unique to Akia. i.c.stars President and Co-Founder, Sandee Kastrul, observes,

“Housing is an increasing challenge for i.c.stars participants. Partners like Solve help overcome this barrier for interns and alumni like Akia.”

By working together to place more people in housing and jobs, or connecting them with the services they need to achieve financial stability, we know that we can get closer to solving the economic opportunity.

How One Chicago Nonprofit is Connecting Diverse Talent with Meaningful Work

A stable job can empower individuals in many ways. Full-time employment opportunities help close the economic inequality gap and enable individuals to remain financially independent.

The problem is that job opportunities can be exclusive – companies can ignore applicants simply because they lack a college education. But one Chicago-based job training program is working to change the hiring narrative and getting undiscovered talent in front of some big name companies.

re:work is a nonprofit sales training program teaching individuals without bachelor’s degrees how to sell software technology and placing program graduates in full-time sales jobs. Working specifically with Chicagoans from the South and West Side, re:work provides free sales training to help young professionals jump start their careers.

With more than 70 partners in the re:work network, candidates can explore entry-level sales positions that may lead to future roles in sales, business development, marketing, and software development. The Re:Work training program is just over two months long and candidates who complete the curriculum earn, on average, a starting salary of $50,000 plus benefits.

Harrison Horan is the founder of re:work and the go-to guy for everything. Horan’s day-to-day responsibilities include recruiting and staffing, business development, marketing and curriculum development. With re:work, Horan hopes to empower young professionals and to correct the injustices discriminating against equal work opportunities.

But re:work also has its fair share of challenges. A severe lack of exposure on the candidate side makes it difficult for potential applicants to identify what types of jobs are available to them; on the employer side, most technology companies continually draw their candidate pools from universities and don’t consider applicants from different educational backgrounds. And once candidates are placed, inclusion challenges make it difficult for new hires to feel like they belong in their workplace.

With Solve, Horan hopes to increase awareness around the free programs Re:Work offers individuals who are looking to fast track their career, boost their earnings potential, and increase their professional opportunities. To learn more about re:work’s training programs and who is eligible to apply, check out their website here.