Tag Archives: career

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.