Tag Archives: barriers to employment

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

Skills without the Means

9 Sep

James Poissot - PhotoJames Poissot is no stranger to hard work and unfortunately harder times.  Following high school, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps.  After serving 9 years, including 4 tours in Afghanistan and 5 tours in Iraq, James exited the military and returned to the civilian workforce in the midst of the Great Recession.

Originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, James traveled around the U.S., unsure of where he could plant roots. SXSW might have brought James to Austin but the people he met kept him here.

“Never had anybody anywhere shown that much concern for me,” says James. “Every other place in the country treats their veterans poorly. They just offer words, no help.”

While he may have found the city he wanted to call home, James still had one significant hurdle to overcome.  Despite having acquired some very specific skills in the military, including working as an auto mechanic, James struggled to find gainful employment.  This lack of steady employment unfortunately led James to become homeless for several years.

Challenges and hurdles aside, James refused to give up hope, applying for jobs regularly.

“It felt like I’d put in 1,000 jobs a day,” says James.

One day, James met a service manager with a local transmission shop.  He explained that despite his current homeless status, he had prior experience working on manual and automatic transmissions in the military.  By owning his valuable skills and taking the risk to outreach, James found an employer willing to work with him.  The only thing he had left to do was to get the tools. That need and a recommendation led James to Workforce Solutions.

As a part of the WIA program with Workforce Solutions, James was able to acquire the necessary tools to perform the job duties as a transmission mechanic.  He also worked with representatives from the Texas Veterans Commission stationed within the local Workforce Solutions Career Center.

James says, “People really are appreciative of our defense of their freedom. If [a veteran] wants better, they can find better with Workforce.”

James is now fully employed and saving up to put a deposit down on an apartment. With a little help, this veteran finally has his life back on track.


About the WIA Program

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) 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, WIA 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.


An Untapped Resource

25 Jul

Tazio Lotts - Photo.docxWork saves us from the three great evils of vice, boredom and poverty.” – Voltaire

After 50 years of success in the business world, Thomas “Tazio” Lotts considered a quiet retirement.  However, it quickly became apparent that he still had more he desired to give. At the gentle urging of his wife, Tazio sought out new opportunities.

“The mechanism of looking for a job at my age is different than for those coming straight out of college,” says Tazio. “But older workers are an untapped resource. We don’t often need much, just enough to stay off the ragged [financial] edge and active.”

While volunteering at a local consignment store, he learned about the AARP’s Senior Community Service Employment Program.  As a part of that program, Tazio began working part-time at the Workforce Solutions Capital Area Career Center in East Austin.

Tazio, who gave up his car seven years ago, utilizes public transit to get to work. However, he says he does not mind the three hour daily commute.

“My commute affords me the opportunity to read and listen to music and an eclectic mix of philosophy CDs,’ says Tazio. “Plus, I am able to continue my long-term/ongoing commitment to understanding the myriad of meanings and messages of James Joyce’s ‘Finnegans Wake.’”

Tazio is thankful for the opportunity and flexibility of his new position.  No longer interested in working a full 40-hour work week, this position allows Tazio to remain busy while bringing in income to supplement Social Security.

“You used to be able to live on Social Security,” says Tazio. “But rent, utilities and food have gone up significantly [more than Social Security].”

As a part of the Workforce Solutions team, Tazio now helps job seekers utilize the free services our Centers offer, including the online employment database WorkInTexas.com.

“I’ve gotten a different feeling about the Austin community in this job,” says Tazio.  “It’s not a charity. I’m just helping to get people ready for the jobs that are available. I’ve been really impressed with some of the people I’ve had the opportunity to work with. It’s a nice feeling to be helpful.”

“I didn’t even know I had these skill sets. They were dormant.”


About the Senior Community Service and Employment Program (SCSEP)

The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) has been serving older workers for over 40 years.  Through that program, AARP Foundation operates 70+ community based project sites in 22 states and Puerto Rico. The mission of this program is to provide subsidized training opportunities to low income individuals age 55+ and assist them with securing permanent, unsubsidized employment. AARP Foundation remains the most successful national sponsor in both service rates and exits for employment.

SCSEP is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor with support from AARP and the AARP Foundation. The program provides comprehensive training and support that helps individuals to:

  • Obtain new job knowledge
  • Enhance existing skills
  • Gain a competitive edge in today’s job market
  • Find and maintain employment

To be eligible for SCSEP, applicants must be unemployed, 55 or over, meet income guidelines and be interested in bettering their current employment circumstances.  To see a list of locations nationwide, please visit http://www.aarpworksearch.org/Pages/Locations.aspx.




Learning to Pay It Forward

30 Sep

Cameron Johns - PhotoCameron Johns has and has always had what it takes to succeed. However, it wasn’t until recently he began to realize it for himself. A bright student without a concrete vision of the future and little intrinsic motivation, Cameron dropped out of high school in the 11th grade. Surrounded by distractions, he became involved in the juvenile justice system and saw even fewer positive prospects for his future.

After a couple of years floating from one job to another, one distraction to another, a friend’s advice led him to the Workforce Investment Act (WIA ) Youth Services program and Youth Employment Partnership (YEP) partner Goodwill.

For the first several months, Cameron was very eager to attend GED preparation classes.  However, following the death of a close family member, he began to lose motivation and momentum. After several months of lackluster participation in classes, Cameron sat down with his case manager Rachel Bristow to have a serious conversation about the goals he had established for himself. During this conversation, Cameron realized his goals hadn’t changed. He still wanted to do better for himself and to set a truly positive example in and for his family. Cameron’s memory of his cousin, who had continuously encouraged him to do and be better, pushed him to renew his education and professional efforts.

“A fire was lit within Cameron,” says Rachel Bristow. “He took his life into his own hands and became the driver of his own success.”

“Everything hasn’t been easy. But to me, he demonstrates exactly what our program can do for people.”

Cameron graduated with his GED in January of 2013 and was elected as the youth representative from his class to speak to his peers during the graduation ceremony. Shortly before completing his final GED tests, Cameron was placed in a short-term internship at a Goodwill retail store in order to gain hands on job experience. He was so successful as a youth intern that his store manager insisted upon hiring him before his internship hours had even been completed.

Despite being groomed for a management track at work, Cameron has not abandoned his educational goals. He has enrolled in classes at Austin Community College and hopes to eventually transfer to the University of Texas.

“Goodwill is not the last step,” says Cameron. “It’s the first step. I want to be a juvenile probation officer.  I’ll be able to relate. I’ve lived it. And after a few years, I’d like to go back to school to become a lawyer.”

“I’ve gained so much. I want to pay it forward.”

About WIA Youth Services

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Youth Services program is a no-cost employment program designed to help low-income youth, aged 14-21, prepare for success in the classroom – and on the job. In our region, WIA Youth services are coordinated through the Youth Employment Partnership (YEP).

Services Include:

  • GED or High School Equivalency Preparation
  • Alternative Secondary School Services
  • Tutoring, Study Skills Training, and Instruction
  • Career Counseling
  • Leadership Skills Development
  • Job Skills Training
  • Employment Opportunities and Paid Work Experience

Tired of Waiting

19 Mar

Doug Makey - PhotoWhen Doug Makey was laid off from his job as a welder last year, the navy veteran had officially had enough. Despite years of – very physically demanding – experience, welding work lacked the stability and professional track Doug desired. He decided it was time for a change.

“I would work for a while and get laid off,” says Doug. “I got tired of losing my job.”

While receiving unemployment insurance benefits, Doug enrolled in the Rapid Employment Model (REM) training program with Workforce Solutions Capital Area. With an unstable work history and two misdemeanor convictions, Doug had additional barriers to employment but no less potential and drive to succeed.

Understanding there is a high demand for truck drivers, Doug enrolled in the Austin Community College’s Continuing Education Commercial Vehicle Operator Training Program. He obtained his Class A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) in August 2012 and found employment within one month.

Unfortunately, that position was not a good fit and Doug returned to his job search. Rather than get discouraged, he kept a level head and positive attitude. Doug met with his career counselor Leah Campbell weekly to discuss his job search and applied for several jobs.

“Leah led me in the right direction,” says Doug. “She was always there and kept me moving.”

In addition to a traditional job search, Doug began to network. This skill and the confidence he had gained led directly to employment.

While stopped at a local gas station for a soda one afternoon, Doug noticed several trucks drive by and asked the clerk behind the counter if he knew where they were all going. To his surprise, the clerk informed him there was a plant not far away. Doug proceeded to park his car on the side of the road and start waving down truckers as they drove by. He told them he had his CDL and asked if they had any advice for him. This bold move led to the name and phone number of a hiring manager. A brief phone conversation with the manager led to a face-to-face interview, and Doug was hired on the spot!

“Doug worked very hard to be where he is today, and I’m honored to have been part of his journey” says Leah Campbell, Career Counselor for Workforce Solutions Capital Area. “He is truly an inspiration.”

“It’s easy to fall into a rut,” says Doug. “Don’t give up and just keep trying. Don’t get discouraged.  A lot of people think they can’t do it and then don’t try. You have to try.”

About REM

The Rapid Employment Model (REM) provides Travis County workers with the opportunity to gain in-demand skills and enter the workforce in a short amount of time.

The aim of the program is to equip participants with in-demand skills so they may enter the workforce in a short amount of time, earn higher wages and work towards self-sufficiency. The program provides short-term vocational training in targeted fields for eligible participants. Trainings are between two and eight weeks in length. In addition to training, this rigorous program provides participants assistance with job search and placement. A major component of the program is job retention. Thus, there are built-in incentives for training attendance and job retention.

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


Workforce Solutions Capital Area is an equal opportunity employer. Auxiliary aids and services are available, upon request, to persons with disabilities. Relay Texas: 800.735.2989 (TDD) / 711 (Voice).

The Tools to Make a Positive Change

31 Jan

Heraldo Quiroz - PhotoAs an unemployed father of three, Heraldo Quiroz was no stranger to tough situations.  Having been out of works for nearly half a year, Heraldo lacked the tools and support he needed to get back on his feet, including providing child support.  As a part of the Non-Custodial Parent (NCP) Choices program, he found both at Workforce Solutions Capital Area and began working with his Career Counselor Tammy Powell.

Unfortunately, unemployment was not Heraldo’s only barrier to success and responsibility.  A lack of transportation and a criminal background made it difficult for him to identify and interview for positions that would be the right fit for him. Workforce Solutions provided Heraldo with assistance for his job search, transportation and work attire.

“I was given tools to help with a job search that I didn’t even know were there,” Heraldo said.  “Things don’t usually work out for me. This program and Tammy really helped me get back on track.”

In just over two months, Heraldo found employment and, with an employment retention incentive, helped purchase a computer to assist with his wife’s school work.

“Heraldo said he was ‘paying it forward’ to help someone else,” said Tammy Powell.  “He took the NCP program seriously and utilized every advantage of the support services we offer.

“I am proud to have worked with Heraldo. He is an example of what can be achieved with goals in mind and the necessary support to achieve them.”

About the NCP Choices Program

The Non-Custodial Parent (NCP) Choices program is a collaborative initiative to help non-custodial parents pay child support.  The Travis County Child Support Court (the Court), the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and Workforce Solutions Capital Area (Workforce Solutions) work together to help non-custodial parents find employment to pay their owed child support and become a contributing member of the local workforce.

The OAG and the Court identify those non-custodial parents who are in need of and qualify for the NCP Choices program. Qualifications for the program include: the child is currently receiving state assistance in the form of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Medicaid; and the non-custodial parent must reside in Travis County, have a social security number and not be currently receiving disability benefits.

Workforce Solutions works with the non-custodial parent to help them secure a job, including identifying and addressing additional outside barriers to obtaining employment.

For more information about the NCP program, contact Workforce Solutions Capital Area.


Workforce Solutions Capital Area is an equal opportunity employer. Auxiliary aids and services are available, upon request, to persons with disabilities. Relay Texas: 800.735.2989 (TDD) / 711 (Voice).