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Connecting Human Trafficking Survivors to Careers

January 6, 2022

A lack of employment opportunities is one of the most serious barriers faced by human trafficking survivors when they attempt to rebuild their lives. Survivors also struggle with finding safe and stable employment.

With this in mind, Seattle-based nonprofit, Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST) has launched a program to provide resources and support for both human trafficking survivors and at-risk youth in living in communities near the airport like Burien, Des Moines, Federal Way, Normandy Park, SeaTac, and Tukwila. In King County, an estimated 500-700 children are forced into prostitution each year. Resources and training are essential in both preventing trafficking and helping survivors move forward.

BEST’s Safe Jobs Collaborative, started in 2018, features partnerships with local service agencies to deliver employment readiness training and create paid internships and job opportunities that support employers in Port-related industries.

The Safe Jobs Collaborative was funded through a 2020 Port of Seattle South King County Community Impact Fund Economic Recovery Grant, which awards contracts to organizations serving communities most deeply impacted by the current economic crisis and connected to Port-related industries.

The program aligns with the Port’s ongoing efforts to fight human trafficking and work around core values of equity and social justice. Most recently the Port implemented a comprehensive, Port-wide strategy to update internal policies and develop awareness training for Port staff.

"The Port of Seattle’s Human Trafficking Awareness campaign is some of the most important work we do as a public agency.  As an operator of significant trade and travel facilities and a large employer in the region, the Port has a responsibility to educate and inform on how to identify trafficking and where to turn for help,” said Port Commissioner Sam Cho. “A critical piece of this work includes supporting survivors and connecting them with resources so they can start to rebuild their lives."

Port funding allowed BEST to hire a client service coordinator to help grow its employer network and coach employers on supporting survivors and at-risk individuals in the workplace. Funding also supported the development of BEST’s internship program, ensuring interns would be paid.

“This is huge for survivors coming out of the life, so they can pay bills and keep their housing,” said Jenna Dimock, Safe Jobs Collaborative Program Manager.

Employment readiness workshops

A big piece of BEST’s support is employment readiness workshops for survivors of human trafficking, offered through partnerships with local organizations and run in coordination with partner organizations. Partner organizations include Real Escape from the Sex Trade (REST), El Centro de la Raza, Kent Youth and Family Services, Wellspring Family Services and YMCA of Auburn. BEST also collaborates with Youth Build, Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC), and Southside Chamber of Commerce through their Workforce Discovery Lab, and offers both standalone training and workshops that are part of pre apprenticeship programming.

Workshop participants learn about stress management, setting SMART goals, giving and receiving feedback in the workplace, setting up for success in the workplace, resume building, and tailoring resumes to a new industry.

“The Safe Jobs workshops give us a touch point with survivors and at-risk individuals,” Dimock said. “We are able to get in and meet people. It gives us the opportunity to get in front of survivors; it’s an incredible recruitment tool for employers and a support for disconnected youth.”

Attendees are able to ask questions about hiring, employers, and open positions, and learn about new careers that might be a good fit. Dimock said at a recent workshop she was able to match a participant with an open position and help her take the next steps.

“After I asked a few questions about her formal work experience, she seemed like a great fit for an open position I was aware of,” she said. “We were able to make a direct connection for her in that moment, and to help her tailor her resume to that position. It was an incredible touchpoint for us.”

Here's some recent feedback from workshop attendees:.

"I learned concrete tools I can put in place. Sometimes you learn something and it doesn't really apply. Jenna helped me turn information into action."

"The topic and the way she taught were all things I could relate to ... my life, the tools, all of it."

Internships for at-risk youth and survivors

BEST is currently in the process of building out an internship program, geared toward survivors of trafficking and individuals at risk of being trafficked.

“We support anyone who falls within the category of being vulnerable, experiencing homelessness or unstable housing of any kind,” Dimock said. “It’s a wide range of folks.”

Internships are designed as 12-week sessions at 20 hours per week and are a chance for interns to gain experience and exposure to an industry they may not have previously considered. Presently staff are networking with port-related industries and preparing to onboard employer partners and help them adopt anti-trafficking policies.

Staff have also worked with the Port Jobs office to establish connections with employers at SEA Airport.

Most recently, BEST worked with VIP Hospitality to create an entry-level Human Resources administrator internship for a survivor in need. The position offers firsthand experience managing daily office tasks and supporting VIP’s training and onboarding of new employees. Dimock said internships can make a huge difference for many survivors who don’t have any previous work experience and can inspire a career direction.

“They need a foot in the door and support from an onsite supervisor,” she said. “They need to develop soft skills, people skills that can transfer to any work environment. An internship can help with that.”

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