Tag Archives: goals

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

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.


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.

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.

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).

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).