Tag Archives: Workforce Investment Act

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.

 

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.

 

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

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.

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).