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Emerson Launches "Ferguson Forward" Program, Funds Youth Jobs And Scholarships

St. Louis Economic Development Partnership website

The global manufacturing company Emerson is upping its investment in the Ferguson community to show "renewed commitment" to the place it has been headquartered for 70 years.

"We choose to be here and are committed to this community, especially now in its increased time of need," chairman and CEO David Farr said in a press release. "We...want to help remove barriers so that more of our neighbors can succeed."

The "Ferguson Forward" program announced on Thursday will fund early childhood education programs, the creation of 100 youth jobs, millions in scholarship money for area students, and business development training. The company will also continue existing commitments with the United Way for at least two years.

We think it's the right thing to do," said executive vice president Patrick Sly in a telephone interview.

Job opportunities

Sly said he is most excited about the program's approach to creating youth jobs. Working with MERS Goodwill Industries and the STL Youth Jobs program, Emerson will spend $750,000 to fund 100 jobs for Ferguson-area residents between the ages of 16 and 23 to work at local companies.

"In many cases this is going to be their first job, to build a resume, have a mentor relationship with their bosses, and we'll use job coaches to assist them," Sly said.

Emerson's press release states this work experience could have a "significant effect in reducing high rates of youth helplessness, violence and crime."

Emerson's executives and managers will also be reaching out to local businesses to offer their experience and advice. The company will also work with new businesses that are interested in investing in the community.

"We're offering our people on a pro bono basis to help them get started," Sly said.

Educational programs

Missouri State Treasurer Clint Zweifel lauded the initiative's educational components.

"Emerson knows, as I do, that the long-term recovery of this region will come from sustainable job growth. and that begins with accessible, quality education for our students," he said in a statement.

Emerson will continue its efforts to improve early childhood education resources in the area, through its work with the New Horizons Early Childhood Education Center in Ferguson. According to its press release, the company is also working on a plan for an early childhood learning resource center.

"The importance of early childhood education is absolutely critical," Sly said. "Children learn to develop relationships, makes sure that they come to pre-school and kindergarten and primary school well-prepared, and it's just proven to improve school performance later in their lives."

Another initiative will focus on improving educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Emerson will contribute $1.5 million over the next five years toward 30 scholarships.

Administered by the Opportunity Scholars Program through the University of Missouri-St. Louis, the scholarships will be given to under-represented or first-generation students to study in the STEM fields. Students from the Ferguson-Florissant, Normandy, Jennings and other neighboring districts will be eligible.

The company will also donate $1.75 million in scholarships for North County students who choose to study technical and trade skills at Ranken Technical College.