How YMO Helped One Youth Find Not Just a Job but a Career
“I can help the next person in line. How is your day going? “
Ernesto Shimizu is all smiles behind the cash register at the CVS drugstore located in the Hastings Ranch area of Pasadena. He quickly moves through a line of waiting customers, following each transaction with, “Anything else we can help you with today?”
Ernesto, 21, is a dedicated employee – so dedicated that he’s not even scheduled to work today. While visiting the store, a line started to form, and he leapt in to help.
Ernesto loves his job, whether working the cash register, greeting customers, restocking shelves or even mopping the floors. And he does it all with a hustle and intensity that is very rare among employees, according to the store manager Javier Guerrero.
“He is flexible, always willing to learn, and really cares about what he’s doing,” said Javier. “He is my example in the store. I always say to my team, `Look at Ernesto – he’s running circles around you.’”
Recently Javier was going to make changes in his staff because they were underperforming. But because of Ernesto – who has worked there since February as a cashier and before that, in customer service – they were motivated to do better. “They saw him working so hard, they began to work harder too,” said Javier. “They all shaped up.”
It’s common for employees to ask to be paired with Ernesto and his reputation has even grown beyond the store. “Now I’m getting calls from other managers asking for him for special projects like remodels, even though sometimes I say no as I don’t want to let him go,” said Javier.
A few years ago, Ernesto couldn’t have imagined he’d be such a star employee. In 2015, he graduated from Hillsides Education Center, a non-public K – 12 school for students with social-emotional, learning, and/or behavior challenges. With his future uncertain, he sought employment help from Hillsides Youth Moving on (YMO) program, which offers workforce training and provides youth with internships at dozens of local companies. The workforce specialist at YMO matched Ernesto with CVS, where Ernesto started out as a part-time intern paid by YMO and is now a full-time employee on CVS’s payroll.
“YMO really opened doors for me,” said Ernesto. “I could not have done this without it.”
The Hastings Ranch CVS is a top performer in the company, according to Javier. He said it is the number one store regionally in its district of 20 stores in every category from sales to customer service. Nationally, the Hastings Ranch store ranks number 16 out of 9,600 stores, said Javier.
Javier anticipates a big future for Ernesto there. He sees a lot of himself in Ernesto because he, too, started out as a cashier without a business degree. He estimates that Ernesto could be promoted to a shift supervisor in as soon as six months and he believes Ernesto has the right stuff to one day be an operations manager at CVS or a store manager.
This suits Ernesto’s career goals perfectly. “It feels good to be getting more and more responsibility,” he said. “I want to keep going up in the company and be like Javier.”
Since hiring Ernesto, Javier has brought on three other YMO youth as interns and found them to be hard-working and adaptable. And if they ever need any extra motivation, he’s got a secret weapon. He’ll pair them with Ernesto, and let Ernesto’s work ethic rub off on them just like it has on everybody else.