Jason’s Heart is a new non-profit in Lincoln that focuses on bringing underserved populations back into the workforce through a year-long, paid apprenticeship.
Jason’s Heart will begin hosting the first-of-its-kind information technology and media apprenticeship in Nebraska in June. This paid apprenticeship program is only open to veterans seeking to re-enter the workforce, people released from prison, people who have successfully completed rehabilitation programs and those who earn low-to-moderate income.
The apprenticeship is for people who are motivated, ready to re-enter the workforce and are willing to put in hard work, said Jason Levine, the executive director and the namesake of the nonprofit. Jason’s Heart works with endorsed local providers like Houses of Hope, The Bridge and St. Monica’s to help inform individuals who meet the apprenticeship criteria about Jason’s Heart.
“We want to find the person who has the drive and is ready to take a step forward, and we want to help mentor them through that process,” Levine said.
Levine said that he has had impactful mentors throughout his career in technology and wants to pass on those experiences to others.
“Throughout my career, I’ve always had someone who was there to show me the ropes and mentor me no matter where I’ve been, whether it’s been in life or career, and I feel like we’re kind of doing that here,” he said.
Tom Nielsen, the founder of Jason’s Heart, said that he named Jason’s Heart after Levine because of his huge heart.
“Jason is the most selfless human being I know,” Nielsen said. “He is an awesome person and everyone just gathers around him. He has such compassion and empathy for the people and clients he works with.”
Levine said the apprenticeship, which is certified by the U.S Department of Labor, will be Monday through Friday, 40 hours a week for a year. For the first round of apprentices, Jason’s Heart is looking to hire four to six people. The schedule is set up to have apprentices in the classroom on Mondays and Wednesdays, on-the-job training on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with Fridays set aside for the apprentices to complete homework, get extra help on the coursework or complete their required volunteer hours.
In the classroom, the apprentices will complete modules and coursework that will mostly be taught by Levine and Matt Fuller, program director of Jason’s Heart. The majority of this coursework is written by Levine and Fuller.
Fuller said that the apprentices would learn in-depth communication skills, how to work in a team, how to work in a business environment with other individuals and then, as the apprenticeship goes on, they will begin learning technical skills such as managing a computer network.
During this program, apprentices will be paired up with a mentor in the information technology and media field who will give them on-the-job training where they will listen to technical calls, troubleshoot and learn the inner workings of a computer. For the first set of apprentices, the mentors will be employees at Soarin Group, an information technology, media, and human resources company that specializes in the nonprofit and behavioral health sectors.
Nielsen, founder of Jason’s Heart, is CEO of Soarin Group. The nonprofit and the Soarin Group share an office. Nielsen said since Soarin Group works so closely with behavioral health providers, it is easy for potential apprentices to learn about the program through the providers.
In addition to the apprenticeship, Jason’s Heart also offers free, one-hour classes for potential apprentices. Fuller said that the material taught in these hour-long classes is some of the same material that will be taught in the apprenticeship.
“Even if someone might not want to join the apprenticeship, it’s nice for them to come and do a little quick one-hour class, see the facility, talk with us, learn a little bit, dabble in the program and see some of the things we’re doing,” Fuller said.
Jason’s Heart is working on partnerships with local businesses that could provide mentors, and speakers for the apprentices to teach about workplace skills or to hire the apprentices who complete the program. Fuller said that they want to help align the apprentices with employers to set them up for success in the workforce.
Levine said that a big part of launching this apprenticeship was thinking of possible barriers that the apprentices may face. Jason’s Heart has partnered with Unite Us, an organization that connects individuals with local nonprofits that can provide supplemental resources that an individual is in need of in case an apprentice faces a hardship that affects their work, like a broken-down car or lack of food.
Jason’s Heart will provide all apprentices with a laptop to complete online modules and homework, which they are encouraged to complete inside the classroom with the other apprentices.
Levine and Fuller are hopeful about their first group of apprentices and have made sure that the timeline for the courses is flexible.
“The apprentices can do it quicker, they can take a little more time, as long as there’s certain benchmarks being met, and things are on pace,” Fuller said.
Fuller said that Jason’s Heart is always in need of time, talent and treasure from the community through volunteers, potential mentors and teachers and financial support.