Starfish has devised a creative and effective way to partner with other organizations and businesses to connect a girl’s need to acquire real-job experience with their need for talent. The Starfish “Foot in the Door” Program matches high school-level Girl Pioneers with local NGOs, small businesses or government offices for formal, three-month internships. These partner organizations are often under-resourced and under-staffed, and welcome the support of a Starfish Girl Pioneer who has the drive and commitment but lacks experience in a formal employment situation. Girl Pioneers join these organizations as employees, while Starfish covers between 70-80% of the stipend each girl earns, and the employer covers the balance.
Starfish aims to have each Girl Pioneer graduate from high school with formal employment experience. To achieve this, we have partnered with dozens of local organizations in Guatemala over the past three years. The entire experience constitutes “real-life” in which the Girl Pioneer must apply and interview for the job and get “hired.” She is treated like any other employee. The employer consents to investing time for the training of the Girl Pioneer providing both she and Starfish with feedback on her performance. In the best-case scenario, Girl Pioneers are hired by the partner-organization or use this experience to find formal work elsewhere (both of which have happened). At its worst, this initiative provides a Girl Pioneer with a powerful, firsthand experience of formal employment that often shows her that perhaps she does not want to pursue that career after all (this has happened too).