Earning Confidence and Success in the Summer Earn and Learn Program

29 Aug

Head, ColtonFor Colton Head, gaining confidence and becoming more assertive are important steps toward achieving real life work experience. To reach those steps, he began participating in the Vocational Rehabilitation program with the Texas Workforce Commission, and it was here that he learned about the Summer Earn and Learn (SEAL) program, which provides pre-employment transition services to students with disabilities. Colton, born and raised in Austin, recognized the value of the opportunity before him and took it.

After entering SEAL, Colton completed a weeklong Job Readiness Boot Camp led by Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) youth contractor, Goodwill Industries of Central Texas: “I wanted to do it to experience what a job is and how to work,” Colton said. “So, when I am ready to have a job, I will know what to do and be able to work.”

“At the beginning of the program, Colton mentioned wanting to gain more confidence and become more assertive,” said Trent Moore, a grant project supervisor with Goodwill. “He has been doing just that. His growth from the beginning of the program to now has been outstanding.”

Colton—quiet and shy at the program’s beginning—demonstrated remarkable progress as the days went by. During the Boot Camp experience, he led small group discussions and presented ideas to the larger group, and showed positive reinforcement for his fellow group members when they shared their own ideas. With Colton’s enthusiasm, the other participants became more comfortable in participating in group discussions.

Over the summer, Colton received work experience through a job internship with H-E-B in South Austin.

“The thing I enjoyed the most was getting to know the other employees, because when I first got there, I was nervous. But they helped me whenever I needed it,” Colton said.

“They were so sweet to me, and that was nice. It touched my heart,” he added.

“Colton has continued to grow in his internship experience, and has developed many skills,” said Trent. “This newfound confidence was evident in his internship by his strong work ethic and customer-focused mindset.”

Indeed, Colton made such a good impression with his hard work and dedication to customer service, that his H-E-B supervisors want to hire him on full time.

Colton recommended SEAL as a practical solution for other students who want to gain professional experience but are unsure where to begin.

“If you want to experience what a job is, you should do an internship with Goodwill,” he said. “After that experience, you can start applying to jobs and start working, get some money.”

About SEAL

Summer Earn and Learn is a statewide initiative that provides employability skills training and a paid work experience during the summer for students with disabilities, ages 14 to 22. The program increases the availability and effectiveness of services to Texas students with disabilities, and prepares them for a successful transition to postsecondary education and careers.

Are you interested in learning more about SEAL? Visit the Texas Workforce Commission’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services website.


Finding a New Home Through WERC

17 Jan

diana-martinezThrough a supportive network of service providers, Diana Martinez was able to make Austin her home. Diana Martinez was born in Houston, and she and her family moved to southern Mexico when she was seven. Diana attended her first year of college in 2014 until she and her parents decided that area of Mexico was too dangerous for her to remain in college.

In early 2014, Diana and her younger sister moved to Austin to live with her aunt, who helped her enroll in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at Manos de Cristo. Manos de Cristo is one of eight community partner agencies in the Workforce and Education Readiness Continuum (WERC), which provides a spectrum of supportive services, literacy classes and occupational training to individuals in the Austin-Travis County area. Diana took ESL courses from May 2014 through May 2015 and received certificates for her proficiency in English.

For Diana, who was extremely homesick for her parents and friends, her ESL teachers and classmates became a second family. “I cried every day for the first three months I moved to Austin,” Diana said. “I missed my friends and was at zero with English.”

Diana dove into the ESL courses, which were taught in an immersion style where the teachers primarily spoke English to the students. Diana said the teachers were very invested in their students’ success. “I felt so special,” she said. “The teachers were always giving me support.” According to Karen Green, Diana’s case manager, Diana received about 200 hours of ESL education, including one week that specifically covered English vocabulary in the workplace.

“It was an honor to have Diana in my English class,” said Sarah Sanchez-Leal, a former AmeriCorps Vista who taught ESL courses at Manos de Cristo. “She was consistently a key contributor to the learning environment in class. She always showed up early to class and worked very hard. I’m delighted to know that all her hard work paid off. I’m also equally as pleased to know that Manos de Cristo was a useful tool in getting her to where she wants to be.”

Diana began her ESL courses with some knowledge of English, said Karen, but the courses helped her build her confidence. “I’m sure she is now thinking in English, not translating it in her head,” Karen said. “She got past the plateau.”

In addition to taking the ESL courses, Diana worked part time as a childcare leader at Manos de Cristo until Karen encouraged her to apply for an administrative assistant internship at American YouthWorks (AYW), another WERC partner agency.

“She was a great student. I saw that from the beginning,” Karen said of Diana. “Any time any [employment] opportunity came up, I kept thinking about her.”

Karen said Diana was hesitant to apply for the internship because she was worried about her English fluency and had never held an administrative assistant job. “I said, you got this, you can do it,” said Karen. “You really want to use your English and get work experience.”

Karen reviewed Diana’s resume and recommended her for the AYW internship, which Diana received! After her internship ended, AYW offered Diana a full-time administrative assistant position in May 2015. Karen said because of the interconnectedness among the WERC partner agencies, she felt very comfortable referring Diana to AYW.

Diana credits the ESL classes at Manos de Cristo and her job at AYW with helping her find her place in Austin. Diana found the courses so effective that she recommends them to AYW clients who want to learn or improve their English. Additionally, Diana’s younger sister is following in Diana’s footsteps and is taking ESL courses through Manos de Cristo! “Now, I have friends, I have work, and consider Austin my home,” Diana said.


About WERC

The Workforce and Education Readiness Continuum (WERC) provides client services ranging from Adult Basic Education (ABE) and English as a Second Language (ESL) to job readiness instruction and occupational training with the goal of empowering clients with the skills they need to advance their employment opportunities and realize their economic potential. For more information program specifics and eligibility requirements, please visit www.wercaustin.com


Driving Toward Success in Pink Steel Toed Boots

3 Jan

nola-ryan-photoNola Ryan’s path to her career as a CDL truck driver has been rocky, but she used the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) program to set herself on a path to success. Nola, a longtime Austin resident and Johnston High School (now Eastside Memorial High School) alumna, began her professional life working in a retirement system that provides benefits to state employees and retirees. However, in 2003, Nola began struggling with addiction, and she was in and out of prison through 2014.

“I went to prison five times,” Nola said. “When I got out the last time, I knew I needed to make the change. With that amount of time [in prison], I probably could’ve gotten a master’s degree.” Nola said she was tempted to return to her former lifestyle, but she was determined to succeed. “I almost slipped,” she said, “But I knew I needed to make the change for good, in order to get back into the job market and make good money.”

Nola received food stamps through the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which referred her to Workforce Solutions’ occupational training services. Nola enrolled in the WIOA program through Workforce Solutions, and she took a CDL course at Austin Community College. “I looked into truck driving because it was the easiest way for me to make the money that I was making when I left [the workforce] in 2003,” she said. Truck driving training allowed Nola to obtain her CDL certification within five short weeks!

Nola said truck driving training’s short duration appealed to her, because she knew that in order for stay out of prison, she would need to train quickly and earn an income as soon as possible. Also, she wanted a change of scenery. “I was used to being behind the desk in the retirement industry,” she said. A self-described “girly girl”, Nola said, “I had never really looked into transportation and trucking. I thought it would be a different type of experience.” Importantly, she said the transportation industry can be accepting of job seekers with backgrounds. “The times I came out [of prison] previously, I let it get me down – my background issues,” Nola said.

Nola worked with Pat Sartor, a Workforce Solutions WIOA Career Counselor, to enroll in CDL training. “I was very proactive about when I could start training,” Nola said. She visited ACC and spoke with a recruiter, and she also conducted online research about CDL training. “Everything just happened really fast,” she said. “Pat took the initiative to get me in there as fast as I could. Pat made it happen for me. She didn’t allow me any time to get discouraged.” Nola attended a rigorous class schedule for five weeks – 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tim Loch, an instructor with the CDL program, was “encouraging, supportive and informative, to say the least,” Nola said. With the help of Tim and the rest of the ACC CDL staff, Nola passed the CDL test!

Before Nola began training, she had attended a job fair for Goodwill, at which Goodwill offered Nola a full time job. When Nola began her rigorous training, Goodwill’s Jason Stewart worked with Nola’s schedule and allowed her flexible weekend hours working part time in its warehouse. “I knew I wanted to drive [as a CDL truck driver] for Goodwill,” Nola said, and she hoped that Goodwill would promote from within once she obtained her CDL.

On July 27, 2016, Goodwill promoted Nola to a full time position as a box truck driver! Nola hopes that a CDL driver position will become available, but for now she enjoys learning how the entire Goodwill organization works, not just one particular position.

Nola said she enjoys driving for Goodwill, and she especially appreciates the “empowering experience” of breaking barriers in a field in which women are underrepresented. “I’m a girly girl, so I don’t see too many women like me who are in the industry,” Nola said. “I’d never owned a pair of steel toed boots. But mine are pink!”


About the WIOA Program

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) program is a no-cost employment program designed to give job seekers the support and/or skills training they need to find a job. Specifically, WIOA can provide:

  • Job search assistance
  • Child care assistance while in training
  • Transportation assistance
  • Interview clothing and uniforms
  • Tools needed for your new job
  • Funding for basic skills and occupational training

For more information about the program and eligibility, please visit www.wfscapitalarea.com.

Hoping for a Breakthrough

21 Jun

Daniel Moreno PhotoDaniel Moreno knows the meaning of hard work and determination. Daniel was born in Mexico, the sixth of seven children. Daniel’s uncle took him under his wing at age nine, and they moved to the United States where they worked seasonal crop picking jobs. Daniel became a citizen when he was 16 and lived with his uncle, who he described as his father figure, until he was about 29. “Life was hard,” he said. “I never attended a day of school. My uncle told me, ‘If you want to make it, you gotta learn how to work.’”

And work he did. Daniel and his uncle moved all over the country; they picked apples in Washington State, peaches in Georgia and oranges in Florida. He even moved West – to Wyoming and Nebraska – to be closer to his parents and other siblings, who had moved to Nebraska.

Daniel said he established a strong work ethic early in his life, working from 5 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the crop fields, and then working in the evenings at other jobs. Throughout his life, Daniel became a jack of all trades: he worked for an auto mechanic shop, was an interstate truck driver, rode bulls in a Cheyenne, Wyoming, rodeo, and also learned the construction trade. A native Spanish speaker, Daniel found it difficult to obtain employment since he did not speak English. He was determined to pick up those skills and became fluent in English by speaking with his coworkers.

Daniel eventually moved to the Central Texas area, where he ran into legal trouble. He was incarcerated for eight years and will be on parole until mid-2017. When he was released from prison in early 2015, Daniel said he had difficulty finding employment due to his criminal background and his age. But, like when he learned English, he was determined to succeed. “I was a go getter, filling out a lot of applications,” Daniel said.

Daniel worked with Goodwill Central Texas and Workforce Solutions South Career Center staff, who are collocated in the same building on Burleson Road, to refine his resume and receive job search assistance. “Mr. Moreno continuously came into the computer lab at the resource center at the Burleson location to gain more computer skills as well as apply for employment and get job leads through his Career Case Manager (CCM),” said Dayna Salinas of Goodwill Central Texas. “He had spoken with his CCM about his previous applications he submitted through Goodwill but had not been hired.  Instead of giving up, Mr. Moreno continued to stay motivated and speak with any Goodwill Hiring Manager to see if there were any jobs available in the warehouse.”

In January 2016, he was hired by Goodwill! “Goodwill hired me for three days, then they hired me full time!” Daniel said. Once he found employment, Daniel was able to use Workforce Solutions’ services to purchase work clothes.

“Daniel exemplified enduring hope while he was waiting for a breakthrough to happen,” said Workforce Solutions South Center Manager Jennifer Cerretti. “When that breakthrough happened, it spoke volumes to those that had been watching him wait. He has not stopped being a role model to others in the work ethic and positive attitude that he carries with him and shares with others on a daily basis.”

Daniel’s jack of all trades skills are an advantage at Goodwill. In February 2016, Goodwill awarded Daniel Employee of the Month! “They’ve got me all over,” Daniel said of the wide variety of job duties. “I’ll do whatever I need to do.” Among other things, Daniel works with “tippers,” or machines that place donated goods onto tables so that they can be sorted and organized for sale in Goodwill’s stores. Daniel is frequently assigned to the recycling area and is also responsible for dismantling wooden pallets. A natural people person, he has even worked on the store floor, greeting customers and informing them about the prices of items.

Daniel is moving toward independence, having secured full-time employment, and he plans to obtain his forklift certification through Goodwill. In addition to gaining financial independence, Daniel has become a mentor to jobseekers at the South Career Center, helping at least three find employment with Goodwill. By moving past his criminal background and finding full-time employment, Daniel has shown that he is truly a go getter! “I want to work for Goodwill as long as they will let me,” he said.


About Employment Services

There are many aspects to a job search. Workforce Solutions Capital Area is here to be your teacher, coach and partner in finding your next job opportunity.

We’re your go-to source for job search assistance and employment-related services in Travis County. Named as the “Best Place to Look for a Job” by The Austin Chronicle, our Career Centers can help you:

  • Find a Job
  • Build Your Resume
  • Prepare for Interviews

For more information, visit http://www.wfscapitalarea.com/JobSeekers 


Driven to Succeed

18 Apr


Viginus Nwokonkwo

Viginus Nwokonkwo enrolled in the Workforce and Education Readiness Continuum (or WERC) seeking employment assistance.  However, soon after enrolling, Viginus had to return home to Nigeria to tend to a death in the family. In June of 2014, upon return to the United States, Viginus began training for a Commercial Driver’s License.

During training, he was sleeping on a friend’s couch and experiencing car troubles. Determined to complete his training, however, Viginus borrowed a friend’s car and made the long commute. Unfortunately, his challenges did not end with transportation.  Viginus was also dealing with custody issues for his daughter while in training.

Rather than be swayed or defeated by these challenges, Viginus was driven.  He was determined to get back on his feet.  Viginus graduated from Austin Community College’s CDL program and found full-time employment with Gemini, a trucking company that transports crude oil throughout the United States.

He is no longer dependent on friends for a place to live or a car to use and is establishing a better life for himself and his daughter.

Viginus also remains grateful for the assistance and support he received from Workforce Solutions and the WERC program.  He is always willing to help current WERC clients who have any questions about CDL or are interested in working for Gemini.

About WERC

The Workforce and Education Readiness Continuum (WERC) provides client services ranging from Adult Basic Education (ABE) and English as a Second Language (ESL) to job readiness instruction and occupational training with the goal of empowering clients with the skills they need to advance their employment opportunities and realize their economic potential. For more information program specifics and eligibility requirements, please visit www.wercaustin.com

Austin TechHire Designation

4 Apr

Austin has been announced as one of 15 new communities added to the White House’s TechHire Initiative.  Designed to develop homegrown information technology workforce, TechHire communities are piloting programs to train lower-skill workers—often in just a few months—through nontraditional approaches like “coding bootcamps” and accelerated programs.

“The designation as a TechHire city by President Obama adds to our talent development ecosystem,” said Alan Miller, Workforce Solutions Capital Area Executive Director. “It will help in our efforts to prepare people with the skills employers need in the fastest growing sector in our economy.”

According to the Office of Austin Mayor Steve Adler, Austin received this designation because Microsoft, Google Fiber, Google, and IBM are advising and working with the City of Austin to provide opportunities for up to 200 graduates from accelerated training programs for veterans and low-income residents at Austin Community College, Texas State University, and Zenith Education Group to interview for paid internships or similar offerings when they complete their programs.

More information about the TechHire Initiative can be found at http://techhire.org/community/austin/.


Finding Ways to Give Back

23 Nov

PhotoDaniel Cardenas’ father always told him to give back to the community and to those who are less fortunate. Daniel graduated from the University of Texas in Austin (UT) in 2003 without having a clear idea of what he wanted to do with his life. After being laid off from an accounting firm in 2013, Daniel decided he was ready to practice what his father preached.

“When I got laid off, I didn’t have marketable skills other than basic office skills,” Daniel said. He decided that a career in healthcare would give him job security and a good paycheck, and would also allow him to interact with ill people who needed his help. He decided to pursue a career in nursing and enrolled full-time in a rigorous course load at Austin Community College (ACC).

Daniel worked at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility while he was in nursing school, but he struggled with being a full-time student and paying his bills. One of Daniel’s classmates told him about the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) program, which is administered by Workforce Solutions Capital Area (Workforce Solutions). The WIA program pays for occupational training costs for income-qualifying adults and youth.

Daniel met with Brian Farrell, a case manager at Workforce Solutions, to determine his eligibility for the WIA program, but he found out that he made slightly too much money to qualify. Brian advised Daniel to focus more on school than work and to come back to Workforce Solutions several months later to reassess his eligibility for the WIA program. Undeterred by the temporary setback, Daniel reduced his hours at the rehabilitation facility and threw himself into his nursing program. Daniel later qualified for the WIA program, and the WIA program paid for his last year of nursing school!

“It’s a completely different story,” Daniel said of his path to a career in nursing. “I’m older and have more perspective. I was going to nursing school with a purpose, with an end goal in mind, not like at UT. I had a much different mindset and a much harder work ethic. I cut back my hours at the rehabilitation facility because I wanted to focus the majority of my time on school.”

Through the WIA program, Daniel participated in a basic computer literacy course and a job interview preparation course. The WIA grant paid for Daniel’s tuition as well as for supplies on the nursing program syllabus, such as textbooks, scrubs, stethoscopes and shoes. The grant also paid for weekly gas cards so that Daniel could travel to his classes and his clinical rotations at local hospitals.

During his last semester at ACC, Daniel participated in a class that prepared students for job placement. Daniel prepared his resume and honed his interview skills through this class, and he received several job offers at local hospitals. “I was lucky enough to observe an operating room during nursing school,” Daniel said. “I knew right away that surgery was what I wanted to do.” In January 2015, Daniel accepted a position as a circulating nurse at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center and works in the operating room (“O.R.”) during surgeries.

“It’s a very fast-paced job,” Daniel said. “The circulating nurses are like the offensive coordinators of the operating room. We oversee everything, and we conduct safety checks in the O.R. It comes down to us to make sure everything is correct and as safe as possible. Nursing school taught us to treat all equally and compassionately. Act as if this patient is a family member,” he said.

Daniel said the most important factor to his success was having a big support group; his family and a good study partner were key to his success. Daniel encourages others to use the WIA program to pursue their interests. “You get out of the training program what you put into it, that’s the bottom line. Programs like WIA reward you for your hard work,” Daniel said. “I felt good when I walked across the stage at UT, but I felt even better when I walked across the stage at ACC.”

About the WIA Program

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) – now the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) – program is a no-cost employment program designed to give job seekers the support and/or skills training they need to find a job. Specifically, WIOA can provide:

  • Job search assistance
  • Child care assistance while in training
  • Transportation assistance
  • Interview clothing and uniforms
  • Tools needed for your new job
  • Funding for basic skills and occupational training

For more information about the program and eligibility, please visit www.wfscapitalarea.com.


Finding the Right Path

30 Sep

Growing up, it wasJacob Rico not easy for Jacob Rico to find his path. Jacob was raised by a single mother as the middle child of seven, and he had trouble finding subjects he liked in high school. Because of a lack of focus, he began skipping class, “roaming aimlessly,” and ultimately dropped out of school altogether. However, thanks to the services provided by the Workforce and Education Readiness Continuum (WERC) and American YouthWorks, Jacob found his true destination – welding – and is excelling in his field!

While out of school, Jacob began working part-time in the construction industry. He later tried to return to school for his General Education Development (GED), but the large class size made it difficult to have one-on-one time with his instructor. So, he dropped out of the GED program and returned to construction work.

One of Jacob’s friends, who had also dropped out of high school, told him about the American YouthWorks YouthBuild program. As a part of the overall WERC program, American YouthWorks YouthBuild is a career training program that helps young adults learn hands-on constructions skills and green building techniques while constructing houses for low-income, first time homebuyers. Jacob’s flexible schedule allowed him to work part-time on a YouthBuild construction crew while also attending GED preparation courses with a lower instructor-to-student ratio, allowing Jacob more one-on-one time with his instructor. American YouthWorks/WERC paid for Jacob’s GED tests, all of which he passed the first time!

Jacob discussed career options with American YouthWorks/WERC counselors, who encouraged him to explore careers such as automotive mechanic and welding. He had taken an automotive mechanic class in high school and decided he was not interested in that career, so he decided to try welding.

As a part of American YouthWorks/WERC, Jacob completed several introductory and intermediate welding courses at Austin Community College (ACC). “I didn’t like math in school, but once it was put into construction terms, it clicked,” he said. “It became interesting.”

At ACC, Jacob’s welding instructor valued his raw talent and recommended him for an internship at a small welding company. American YouthWorks/WERC paid for Jacob’s 300-hour internship.

By the end of his internship, Jacob had impressed the company so much that he received a full-time job offer! Empowered by the offer, he expanded his job search and accepted a position with a larger company that allowed for more opportunities to learn his craft. “My boss relies on me to do my own job; he trusts me to work fast and hard, to push myself to the limit. I like the independence,” Jacob said.

Not content with one opportunity, Jacob interviewed for and was accepted into the Sheet Metal Workers Union! He has completed the first year of a four-year apprenticeship program and takes union classes such as drafting and welding. “The opportunities are endless,” he said.

Jacob said the American YouthWorks/WERC program gave him valuable knowledge about different careers that he did not receive in high school. “If a high school doesn’t have a lot of extracurricular options, and the student doesn’t have encouragement or knowledge [of career choices], a student might be content to work whatever job he or she can find,” he said. “You have to not be content, always push for more.”


About WERC

The Workforce and Education Readiness Continuum (WERC) is a City of Austin-funded network of community partners linked to help prepare Austin-area residents to enter or reenter today’s competitive job market. With 38 locations, WERC provides client services ranging from Adult Basic Education (ABE) and English as a Second Language (ESL) to job readiness instruction and occupational training with the goal of empowering clients with the skills they need to advance their employment opportunities and realize their economic potential. For more information, please visit www.wercaustin.com.

Polishing Rusty Skills

5 Aug

All3OfUsChriss Rathbun, a self-proclaimed “geek” and experienced information technology professional, loves the IT industry and has successfully weathered its highs and lows. He lost his Project Management job in the early 2000s during the dot com bubble, and bounced back in 2004 with an IT management position, which he held for 10 years. However, Mr. Rathbun faced his biggest career hurdle in 2014, when his company centralized its IT division to Pennsylvania, forcing its employees to choose between moving or staying in Austin.


“I literally worked myself out of a job,” Mr. Rathbun said. He had developed a way for his company’s offices around the nation to streamline IT issues through the Pennsylvania-based division. Once that system was in place, his company made the decision to eliminate the IT department in Austin.


Mr. Rathbun was unwilling to leave Austin, a tech-friendly city that “appeals to my inner geek,” where he has put down firm roots. In addition to the home he bought more than a decade ago, he met and married his wife, Anastasia, in Austin, and their daughter, Ella, was born in their Austin home.


After searching for jobs without assistance from February through August 2014, Mr. Rathbun soon realized that, although he had a college degree and significant professional experience, employers wanted more. Throughout his career, Mr. Rathbun had become an experienced IT Project Manager, but he had never obtained professional Project Management or current IT certifications, such as ITIL. He needed to obtain the certifications to “cover what I’d been doing for the last 25 years,” he said.


Mr. Rathbun also experienced some significant health issues, which were exacerbated by the stress of losing his job. With medical bills and mortgage payments looming, Mr. Rathbun reached out to Workforce Solutions to help him get ahead of the curve.


Mr. Rathbun was eligible for Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Dislocated Worker Program training, and he worked with Kathryn Riley at Workforce Solutions to choose a training package that would make him more marketable. From August to December 2014, Mr. Rathbun obtained several Microsoft certifications, a Project Management Professional credential and ITIL service management training and certification through St. Edward’s University. “I completed those trainings while becoming healthy; I focused on that and recreating who I was,” Mr. Rathbun said.


While Mr. Rathbun had the full support of his “lovely ladies” – his wife and daughter – at home, his classmates also encouraged him to persevere through his medical and financial issues. “My instructors and I, as well as some of my classmates, still keep in touch,” Mr. Rathbun said. “If I were in a vacuum without family and the support of Workforce Solutions, I don’t know if I’d have had the determination to complete the classes and get the certifications. But my family needed me and supported me, and so did other people I’d met who’d been laid off. With their support, I kept on trucking and got it done.”


In addition to his training courses, Mr. Rathbun also attended interview and resume classes at WFS career centers and joined a networking job club, which he attended once a week. The courses helped refresh his job search skills, which were rusty since he had worked at his previous position for 10 years. “I learned so much at these classes about tricks to get my resume seen,” Mr. Rathbun said. “While working in IT management, I read thousands of resumes and interviewed hundreds of people. I wouldn’t have gone to these classes if I hadn’t been forced to go, but I was amazed by how much I learned.”


While enrolled in his training program, Mr. Rathbun and his family experienced financial hardship when his unemployment insurance ended. So, they got creative. “My family needed to do some spring cleaning anyway, so we held multiple garage sales and sold items on eBay, Amazon and other sites.”


Mr. Rathbun and his family also received a one-time mortgage assistance payment through the WIOA program while he was completing his studies. His hard work paid off, and he obtained employment as a Senior IT Project Manager shortly after his training programs ended! Mr. Rathbun plans to continue expanding his skill set by obtaining additional certifications.


Kathryn Riley with Workforce Solutions said she was impressed by how Mr. Rathbun remained dedicated to his training although he and his family endured challenges. “Chriss handled all the challenges and continued to excel in school. Chriss maintained a positive attitude and applied himself to training and his job search,” Ms. Riley said.


“Don’t be too proud to get help,” Mr. Rathbun advises other job seekers. “You’ve got a family and responsibilities, and you don’t have to do it on your own. My advice to someone in a similar situation is to immediately go down to Workforce Solutions and get into a job club. Don’t underestimate the programs, don’t underestimate the training, and don’t try to do it by yourself. Take advantage of the wonderful people and programs available there.”


About the WIOA Dislocated program

The Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act program is a no-cost employment program designed to give job seekers the support and/or skills training they need to find a job. For more information program specifics and eligibility requirements, please visit our site.

Hitting the Ground Running

2 Jul

WheTiare Marshalln Tiare Marshall, a native Alaskan, moved to Texas with her now ex-husband in February 2011, she didn’t know anyone. In November 2013, Ms. Marshall relocated from Dallas to Austin after her separation to begin a new life as a single parent. When the former stay-at-home mother made the brave decision to start a new life in Austin, she knew she had to choose the right path for herself and her young son.

Ms. Marshall has always been creative and fascinated with the hair and salon industry. With the freedom to pursue her interests, she researched cosmetology schools and was accepted to Baldwin Beauty Schools in early 2014.

While in school, Ms. Marshall received childcare assistance from the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), managed by Workforce Solutions Capital Area, and found an exceptional childcare facility that she and her son love. However, once she graduated in March 2015, she became ineligible for childcare assistance through CCDF.

“It was a really stressful time,” Ms. Marshall said. “I didn’t know how I could attend interviews without childcare.”

Ms. Marshall received childcare assistance through Travis County Continuity of Care, also managed by Workforce Solutions, during a 90-day job search period. Through her tireless effort, she secured employment within 30 days!

“The hardest part was being unsure about my employment situation,” Ms. Marshall said. “I would spend hours every day researching because I wanted to find a job that was right for both of us, not just any job.”

Theresa Nealy, who enrolled Ms. Marshall in childcare assistance at Workforce Solutions, credited her for being ambitious and goal oriented. “It’s wonderful to be of service to Ms. Marshall,” Ms. Nealy said. “She is humble and pleasant. I’m glad to see how our services enabled her to pursue her career.”

Ms. Marshall said the biggest challenge was balancing time with her son while going to school and job searching, but holding out for the career she loves was worth the effort and uncertainty. “I went through so much: being a stay-at-home mom to having to put myself out into the world of working and going to school and being away from my son. I had to really choose what was best for me and my son and make sure that both of us were happy and not settling.”

Ms. Marshall encourages others to find their passions and turn them into careers. “Even if it seems really hard as a single parent, it’s worth it to go through school and work toward a career,” she said. “Never settle, because you deserve to be happy, and your kids really deserve to be happy as well. A stressful job can affect a whole family so I wanted to work towards the right one.”

Ms. Marshall said that childcare assistance helped her hit the ground running in her pursuit of a career in cosmetology. “I really appreciate these programs [such as childcare assistance] because they help people get back on their feet. This past year I was able to achieve my dream career! My son and I will forever be grateful for this opportunity.”

About Subsidized Child Care

Choosing child care is one of the most important decisions for a parent to make.

Workforce Solutions Capital Area Child Care Services provide subsidized childcare assistance to eligible low- to moderate-income families in Travis County.

For more information about the program and to determine eligibility, please visit http://www.wfscapitalarea.com/ChildcareServices/ForParents.aspx.