For Neila Charles, the road to success runs through the Gap.
The 18-year-old Brooklynite landed an internship and then a job with the clothing retailer through This Way Ahead, a youth workforce initiative that also helps cover her college costs.
“I would say the program actually drastically changed my life,” Charles told the Daily News. “I love the company and I’m learning about people. It’s an amazing opportunity to have. It’s perfect for me.”
The Borough of Manhattan Community College student was busy with her high school work and her dance studies at the Door, a SoHo-based “center of alternatives,” when she learned about the program.
“I’d never had much experience with a real job,” she said. “It wasn’t my first job, but it was my best job.”
The program was launched two years ago with teens like Charles in mind. Students receive both training in workplace skills and spend time at a Gap Boot Camp before they’re placed in paid internships at Gap Inc. retail outlets: Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic.
So far, so good, says Julie Shapiro, executive director of the Door.
“The program is designed to be a first-job experience, so young people who have not worked before can test out a first job,” Shapiro said. “The retail training covers everything from time management to professionalism to resumes and interview skills to customer service.”
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The Door helped 334 young people land internships in the last year, with 85% completing their 10-week internships and 70% landing jobs afterward. Similar numbers are expected for 2017.
“It’s a very good way to get your foot in the door,” said Shapiro. “We’ve also found it’s really helpful to get young people in starting their careers — and achieving academic success.”
In addition to “This Way Ahead,” the Door provides 10,000 city youths with assistance in everything from reproductive health to homework help.
The program actually dates to 2007, and currently operates in 14 other cities — including three in England. By 2020, the company expects to hit 10,000 participants in its effort to help teens, many from low-income families.
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“The company wanted to do something good for the communities where the stores are located,” explained Shapiro.
Charles wound up landing a job at a Gap outlet in the Financial District before moving to a second position at a new franchise store in Times Square.
“I learned through the program about the importance of having a résumé, who to write a cover letter, and overall learning how to talk to people and being patient,” she recounted.
“And they absolutely taught me the customer is always right.”
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The employee is OK, too: Charles proudly recalls selling 23 Gap gift cards in her first 10 weeks on the job.
“That’s impossible!” she said. “It was really good. Amazing.”
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