In 2017, Audible had a vision. The company wanted to create a positive impact in Newark by working with local organizations to create more job access. But not just any jobs; Audible wanted to provide opportunities to work in office jobs with chances for advancement. In addition, they took the unique approach of identifying candidates who had the talent to do these jobs, but not necessarily the resume or network to get them.
To make their vision a reality, Audible created its Cornerstone hiring program. As a result, the relationship began between Audible and Covenant House New Jersey (CHNJ). CHNJ is a Newark-based organization committed to serving youth facing homelessness and human-trafficking survivors, of which 63% are Black. Pam Selitto, who heads up Audible’s Cornerstone program, explains, “With Covenant House’s help, we find locals who love working with people, regardless of previous experience or education, then train them on Audible’s customer service skills so they can get great jobs with us or any other employer in Newark.”
Cornerstone lasts eight weeks, 40 hours per week. During the program, trainees are paid a living wage plus a stipend to help with medical insurance premiums. Upon graduation, graduates are encouraged to apply to Customer Service Associate roles at Audible, or they’ll receive help applying elsewhere.
Some of the transferable customer service skills taught as part of the program include computer navigation, written and non-verbal communication, time management, and critical thinking. In addition, candidates need a passion for helping and conversing with customers. They also need a general interest in audio storytelling (like audio books and podcasts) and spoken-word entertainment, and basic technical skills. Because of this program, there have been many success stories with CHNJ youth! Queen Pratt, an CHNJ alumna and now from Audible shared, “Working for Audible for the past 5 years has been life-changing, transformative, and rewarding. The Cornerstone program has done more than help people acquire jobs; they have helped prepare and equip young adults with the skills necessary to obtain lifelong careers. I owe my gratitude to Covenant House. If it were not for them, I would not have had this amazing opportunity.”
For people, particularly youth, who don’t have a network or a support system, it’s an enormous challenge to find and maintain jobs like ones Audible is offering. So, to address this, CHNJ is rolling out a new Job Coach Volunteer program. The program is a 1:1 volunteer and youth commitment for 5-10 weeks. The goal is to help youth work through job skills gaps, anxieties, or sense of inadequacy felt with a job. Everyone needs someone to encourage them, and committed volunteers can serve that role.
According to Alison Cevasco, Associate Director of the Dove Learning Center at CHNJ, “The partnership that Audible has built with CHNJ has been invaluable. And our new DLC Job Coaching program, combined with Cornerstone, has been able to provide our young people with the skills needed to be successful in the workplace and the support necessary to make it sustainable. In their most recent cohort, 5 of 11 of our young people were able to obtain employment with Audible. This is a life-changing partnership for our youth in Newark.”
Covenant House is so proud to help Audible make a difference in the lives of people of color in Newark who have such potential. And now the opportunity they need to succeed.
Are you a youth in need of help?