Tag Archives: training

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.

 

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

Building a Career, Not Just Having a Job

16 Sep

Until very recently, most of Pamela Overall’s employment had consisted of working hard only to see contracts inevitably end. She struggled to find consistent employment with the personal and professional benefits that allows. Pamela had had jobs, but not a career.

“I spent many years going in and out of jobs,” says Pamela. “I worked through multiple temp agencies, three months here, six months there. I probably would have continued to struggle with it until I was too old to work anymore.”

In 2007, Pamela finally was able to transition from a temporary to a permanent employee. Truly the exception, not the rule. Unfortunately, after only two and a half years of full-time employment, Pamela found out she would soon again be unemployed. Through no fault of her own, Pamela’s job was being relocated to Salt Lake City, Utah when the company she worked for lost the lease on their building. Pamela knew how to job search but her current situation qualified her for job training assistance.

“I knew my desirability as an older worker was diminishing,” says Pamela. “The first suggestions people made was to train to be a nurse but I didn’t feel like that was a job I was cut out for. It’s a lot easier to replace a hard drive than a heart.”

“I made my choice for technology because it is a growing field. You can take several different directions with it. Plus it was one job I didn’t have to worry about going overseas. If I knew how to repair computers, I’d always have a job. Computers are everywhere.”

Through the Trade Adjustment (TAA) program, Pamela was able to train for and complete a number of Information Technology (IT) certifications and find employment in the field. However, TAA did more than just help Pamela begin her career. It also helped Pamela’s family.

“The TAA program is not only for the individual,” says Pamela. “It can help an entire family. I was able to teach my daughter what I’d learned and it helped her find a job.”

“I wanted my daughter to have a solid base, something to fall back on and to learn the things I was never taught. The importance of finding and keeping a good job, paying bills on time, maintaining a checking account, etc.”

“My TAA rep Frank Perry was wonderful. Without this program and Frank, I don’t know what I would’ve done. Frank was always in my corner supporting, encouraging, and fighting for me every step of the way. He’s an excellent representative of the program and what counselors should be.”

About Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA)

The Trade Adjustment Assistance Act helps workers who lost their jobs due to foreign imports or competition. To receive TAA benefits, an individual must have lost a job covered by a trade certification issued by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Workforce Solutions office staff can discuss the following benefits TAA recipients:

  • Job Search Assistance
  • Job Search Allowance
  • Relocation Allowance
  • Training (Vocational and Remedial)
  • Trade Readjustment Allowances (TRA)
  • Reemployment Trade Adjustment Assistance (RTAA)
  • Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC)

Flying Forward with the Top Down

25 Jun

Jonathan Ball - PhotoAfter leaving the military in the 80’s, Jonathan Ball worked as a trainer and manager in the civilian workforce for nearly 25 years. Unfortunately, in August 2010, his career took a sharp turn and Jonathan was laid off.  He was left to redefine his career path.

With thoughtful evaluation of his skills and the local labor market, Jonathan determined he needed a career with more stability but he lacked a certification or license in a high demand field.

“I didn’t want to be laid off again,” says Jonathan. “I wondered ‘What can I do where I will have a job?’ Healthcare.”

As an honorably discharged veteran, Jonathan knew he possibly qualified for educational benefits but was unsure what and how. Being a man of action, however, he did not waste any time. Just weeks after his layoff, Jonathan learned how he could utilize the Hazelwood Act to earn a healthcare related degree and began taking courses at Austin Community College.

Upon completion of his prerequisite courses for an Associate’s Degree in Nursing, Jonathan enrolled in the WIA program through Workforce Solutions Capital Area and began working with his career counselor Barbara Emokpaire. As the Hazelwood Act was covering his tuition, WIA helped cover the supplemental costs of going to school, including books, scrubs, and gas.

“I would encourage anyone looking to go to school to explore all of their options,” says Jonathan. “With Hazelwood and WIA, I essentially had a free education.”

Able to focus on his coursework rather than how it would all be paid for, Jonathan graduated in December 2012 and shortly after began working for a leading local hospital system. In June 2013, he completed his internship period and received a pay raise and title promotion to staff nurse.

“I’m not where I was before the layoff,” says Jonathan, “but I’m stable and I’m getting there.”

Jonathan would like to give back and is willing to assist people looking for advice regarding success in the ACC nursing program. If you would like to speak with him, please submit request at www.wfscapitalarea.com/ContactUs.

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:About the WIA Program

  • 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.

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).