Rebecca Gonzalez-Pliss knows exactly what career she wants to pursue and is well on her way to that profession thanks to a pre-employment training program at the Arc Nature Coast and a caring mentor. The sixteen-year-old wants to go to cosmetology school and eventually become a hairstylist and professional cosmetologist.
“When I was a little kid I always liked how makeup and hair looked. I loved to play with hair. When I got older I said, ‘this looks like a really fun job. I should give it a go,’” Rebecca states.
Now she is getting the opportunity to do what she loves and learn all about the art and profession of beauty through a four-month apprenticeship at Allure Family Salon in Spring Hill. Before she could go to work in the “real world” Rebecca had to complete a twenty-hour course at the Arc Nature Coast.
“They taught me social skills, learning about business, how to act professional and interviewing tips,” explains Rebecca.
Renette Black, an Employment Specialist at the Arc Nature Coast, is in charge of the On-the-Job Training (OJT) program and is responsible for locating employers that are willing to train students. She also helps find jobs for adults and offers them training and support. She has known Rebecca since November of last year.
“She showed interest in hair styling and makeup. She was interested in Allure as soon as she participated with them at the Job-a-Palooza,” Ms. Black remarks.
Job-a-Palooza is an annual job fair hosted by The Arc Nature Coast. It was a good match for both employer and trainee.
Natasha Gubello, owner of Allure Family Salon, comments, “I was looking for a community partner and I participated in Job-A- Palooza. Afterwards, Renette brought Rebecca to my table and said, ‘I think she’ll be a good fit for your company.’ When I met her we immediately clicked. I felt she would be an asset to my business.”
Ms. Gubello’s salon had only been open for four months when she met Rebecca in February of this year, but she decided to take a chance on the student.
“She’s very reliable. She comes on time. She doesn’t miss any of her shifts. In fact she’s always five minutes early. She always looks very professional. After she finishes school I would definitely offer her a job,” states Ms. Gubello.
Although Rebecca is not licensed yet and cannot apply makeup or do other tasks associated with cosmetology, she is learning important skills by practicing on mannequin heads. She washes, blow dries and brushes hair extensions and wigs and applies makeup, including false eyelashes. She is learning about the various hair products and tools of the trade and learning about inventory control, as well as answering the phone. Rebecca also performs more mundane tasks.
“I clean when we open, I sweep up and mop at the end of the day to make sure the floor is extra sanitized. I sanitize the products and the brushes. I wipe down the surfaces, dust and put the products away,” Rebecca states.
Rebecca learned to shampoo hair by practicing on her mother and Ms. Gubello’s two-year-old son. Now she is even shampooing the customers’ hair.
Next month Rebecca’s contract with Allure comes up for renewal and she’ll decide whether or not she’s going to stay on or go to another job site.
“I would love to continue working here, but on the side, I want to go to cosmetology school and get a degree. I want to keep it going as long as I can.”
The Arc Nature Coast’s employment program has been successful, not only in providing job preparation and on the job training (OJT) but also in actually placing people in jobs. Ms. Black has placed trainees with the Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches Thrift Store, Winn-Dixie, Care-a-Lot Daycare, Enchiladas, and Register Chevrolet to name a few. One of their “graduates,” Jaylon, is now working at Wal-Mart after doing OJT there. Another young lady, Sandra, worked at Golden Corral after apprenticing at the restaurant in Zephyrhills.
The organization’s employment training and placement program is a win-win situation for everyone concerned. For students like Rebecca, it’s an opportunity to fulfill a dream and pursue a career that she loves. For business people like Natasha Gubello, it’s a chance to find potential qualified and reliable employees. For the Arc Nature Coast, it allows them to accomplish part of its mission of serving its clients and the community. And for society, it’s an opportunity to have a strong workforce.