Tag Archives: children

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

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.

Navigating the Sea of Unemployment

2 Feb

The Watters - PhotoIn 2014, Natalie and Jason “J.J.” Watters found themselves in the same boat: they were both unemployed at the same time. The couple was determined to keep their heads above water even though they faced significant challenges such as debt and taking care of their two young children, so they dove head first into the CHOICES Program at Workforce Solutions Capital Area.

According to their CHOICES case manager LaShaila Mitchum, the Watters went to the Workforce Solutions North Center at 7:45 a.m. every day for four weeks, where they participated in job readiness classes and searched for jobs. The Watters were “beacons of positivity,” said Ms. Mitchum, and they offered support and words of encouragement to other CHOICES participants.

Mrs. Watters said the family appreciated the classes that taught them how to interview for jobs, fill out job applications and write their resumes.

Mrs. Watters said the most challenging aspect of the couple’s job search was that many employers were slow to respond to online job applications. “There was no face-to-face contact. You have to be persistent. It’s as if you are one fish in a big sea,” she said. “You want the companies to see what you bring to the table, but without personally meeting recruiters, you’re just a piece of paper, just a resume.”

Mrs. Watters also said the on-site hiring events at Workforce Solutions’ career centers were invaluable. Mr. Watters received a notification through his WorkInTexas.com account about a UPS job fair, and he spoke face-to-face with a recruiter at the hiring event. That day, Mr. Watters filled out his application on a computer at the career center. He interviewed for a temporary truck loader position at UPS the next day, and he received a job offer on the spot. “The recruiter at the hiring event went through the whole hiring process,” Mrs. Watters said. “She left nothing uncertain.” Mr. Watters was a temporary worker until January 15, when he accepted a full-time truck loader position at UPS.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Watters, who has worked in the childcare industry for more than a decade, accepted a job offer as a curriculum coordinator and after-school and summer camp director at a children’s learning center. Her new schedule is conducive to her family; her daughter attends day care at the children’s learning center, and her son’s school is nearby.

“The Watters have truly set the standard for clients who are facing many obstacles and still manage to exceed program requirements,” said Ms. Mitchum. “Mr. Watters worked from 1 a.m. to 8 a.m. and would still come to the center and is constantly praised for his work ethic. Mrs. Watters is the epitome of a family’s backbone. I have seen her in so many instances encourage other CHOICES clients to keep up the fight in efforts to provide a good-quality of life for their families as well as provide them with community resources.”

About the Choices Program

For individuals receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Workforce Solutions Capital Area offers one-on-one job search assistance and support services through the Choices program.  Choices is a no-cost employment program designed to give TANF recipients the assistance and support they need to find a job. Specifically, Choices can provide:

  • Job search assistance
  • Child care
  • Transportation assistance
  • Work-related expenses
  • Referrals to other community services

Eligibility for the Choices program and TANF is determined by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). For more information about eligibility requirements, please visit http://www.hhsc.state.tx.us/Help/Financial/temporary-assistance.shtml.

Realizing Help IS Available

31 Jan

LaShannon Appleby - PhotoOne challenge, one hurdle can easily discourage a lot of people. Unlike those people, LaShannon Appleby accepts each challenge as being exactly that – a challenge. As a young mother of an infant child, LaShannon understands her decisions do not just affect her future.

After a tumultuous childhood as an at-risk youth in the foster care program, LaShannon moved to Austin after high school to pursue her education and a better life for herself and her daughter.

“I want my daughter to know that I’ve sacrificed it all,” says LaShannon. “I don’t want her to future to be my past.”

Despite drive and determination, LaShannon was unable to find employment that could support her young family both financially and time-wise. Her first job at a gas station did not offer a regular schedule, making it impossible to utilize traditional child care.  LaShannon had to resort to costly or often inconvenient baby-sitting requests.

In the fall of 2013, LaShannon enrolled in the Choices program and began working with her Career Counselor Susan Wondra.

“At the time of our intake, LaShannon was struggling to provide a comfortable life for her and her infant daughter,” says Susan. “Although she has no family support and had a difficult time keeping her job with no assistance, LaShannon has always had an exceptionally good attitude and a smile on her face. She has more self-motivation and drive than the average individual and because she is so humble, she does not realize the successes she has made as a young mother.”

Utilizing available child care services and transportation assistance, LaShannon was not only able to increase the number of available hours she could work but she also secured a new full-time job with a 50% increase in hourly pay!

“Without Ms. Wondra, my daughter and I could have been sleeping in my car,” says LaShannon. “I want people to know they don’t have to give up. There are a lot of resources in Texas. There is help. You are not alone.”

About the Choices Program

For individuals receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Workforce Solutions Capital Area offers one-on-one job search assistance and support services through the Choices program.  Choices is a no-cost employment program designed to give TANF recipients the assistance and support they need to find a job. Specifically, Choices can provide:

  • Job search assistance
  • Child care
  • Transportation assistance
  • Work-related expenses
  • Referrals to other community services

Eligibility for the Choices program and TANF is determined by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). For more information about eligibility requirements, please visit http://www.hhsc.state.tx.us/Help/Financial/temporary-assistance.shtml.

Building a New Life

30 Apr

Prior to the fall of 2012, Carol Jackson had expected to live her entire life on the island of St. Croix U.S. Virgin Islands. After fourteen years of service as an Office Professional at a local oil refinery, she unexpectedly learned she was being laid off. With the closing of the refinery, Carol was among 2,500 Cruzans – roughly 5% of the overall population of the island – suddenly looking for work.

“The job market wasn’t as plentiful now that the major private employer [had] closed,” Carol says. “So I decided it was time to move on.”

With family already in the area, the Jackson family – Carol, her husband and their three children – relocated to Austin in an effort to build a new life for themselves. Upon moving to Austin, Carol was introduced to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and began working with Jennifer Dominguez, a Career Counselor with the Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s SNAP Employment & Training program.

The SNAP E&T program includes job search assistance, professional workshops and volunteering in the community. Initially, Carol wondered why she had to do all of these things. She had worked in a professional setting for a long time and was already searching and applying for jobs. What was the big deal?

However, as she progressed in the program, Carol realized the value of the components and was able to utilize the tricks and tips she learned.  In addition, volunteering at the Blood & Tissue Center of Central Texas provided Carol with a way to immediately give back to her new community AND to network.

“Volunteering is an essential key to job searching,” says Carol. “Other than contributing your valuable time to society and getting that ‘feel good’ buzz, it allowed me to meet people. I learned more about Austin, other places to volunteer and key employers, all through networking.”

Within four months of moving to Austin, Carol was hired as an Administrative Assistant with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.  However, her journey does not end there. After evaluating local employment needs and trends, Carol decided to continue her education and is currently taking classes in Grant Writing and Business for Social Media.

“For those of you that are newly unemployed, my advice is to get on the ball right away on your mission to find the next opportunity,” Carol says. “It may take a few interviews to get where you want to be but a ‘Yes’ is right around the corner and just a few interviews away!”

On working with Carol, Jennifer Dominguez adds “I am grateful for the opportunity I was afforded to provide support to a customer whose professional outlook on life is positive and inspiring.”

About the SNAP E&T Program

SNAP E&T is a no-cost employment program designed to give SNAP (food stamp) recipients the assistance and support they need to find a job. Based on available funding, SNAP E&T can provide:

  • Job search assistance including job referrals
  • Support services such as transportation assistance, crisis and work-related expenses
  • Job skills assessment
  • Career counseling and planning
  • Training in basic and occupational skills
  • Work experience
  • Referrals to other community services

The SNAP E&T program is only available to SNAP (food stamp) recipients. Eligibility for SNAP is determined by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC).  For more information about the SNAP (food stamp) program including eligibility requirements and how you can apply, please visit http://www.hhsc.state.tx.us/help/Food/snap.shtml.

If you are a current SNAP (food stamp) recipient and want to learn more about SNAP E&T, 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).

Short-term Needs and Long-term Goals

28 Feb

Denitrea Crittenden - PhotoDenitrea Crittenden was a 27-year-old, single mother of two, receiving public assistance to care for her young family when she first came to Workforce Solutions Capital Area to explore the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) program.  Unfortunately, while she qualified, WIA funds had already been exhausted for that time period.

Not easily deterred, Denitrea worked toward her long-term goals and self-funded the prerequisite courses for a Radiology degree. However, pressing family obligations did not allow for a fast-tracked, rigorous academic load.

Two years later, after having completed the necessary prerequisites, Denitrea again inquired about the WIA program.  At that time, she was enrolled in the Austin Community College Radiology program and had a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)! The stress and cost of caring for her family had made it hard to continue to paying for her education all alone. Fortunately, the stars aligned and Denitrea was able to successfully enroll in the WIA program.

“Walk into Workforce Solutions and just ask,” said Denitrea Crittenden. “Let someone know your situation. No one can help unless you let them know what you’re going through. Don’t just wait and see. Discuss your short-term needs and long-term goals.”

Despite additional hurdles along her twenty month path, Denitrea graduated with an Associates of Applied Science and earned a 3.4 GPA and a place in the honor society.  While in school, the WIA program assisted Denitrea and her family with tuition, textbooks, uniforms, exam fees and crisis assistance.

Upon graduation, Denitrea worked with her Career Counselor JoAnn Rogerio and Career Facilitator James Helton to maximize her job search efforts and polish her resume.  Three months after graduation, Denitrea found employment as a Radiologic Technologist for one of the region’s leading hospital systems.

“One of the most helpful parts of the WIA program for me was knowing someone actually cared about my family and my success,” Denitrea said. “JoAnn taking the time to pick up the phone was comforting.”

This, however, was not the end goal for Denitrea.  She is continuing her education by pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Radiologic Sciences.

“Single mothers need to understand your life doesn’t need to stop with another outside life,” she offers.  “If you can take care of children, you can do anything!”

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.

 

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).