Strategies for Success students learn how to cope with losing a job

It’s Workforce Wednesday, when we spotlight Power of a Job success stories. Today we bring you Amy Mercy, who came to WorkSource Vancouver after she lost a job she held for 27 years. WorkSource helped her learn how to look for work again.

But the popular Strategies for Success course benefitted Amy the most, helping her regain her footing and move on with her life. This six-week course series teaches life skills and how to discover your potential.

Here is Amy’s story:

I came to WorkSource because of unemployment. I worked for a company for 27 years, so it was a severe shock, to tell you the truth, for me to become unemployed.

When I came here, I took the obligatory classes, which were great. It had been a long time since I’d written a resume. One of the classes I enjoyed the most was Strategies for Success [life skills course]. Joseph [Hennessey] was our leader. We had a wonderful group of people, so we could bounce ideas off different people. We learned a lot, like how to be interviewed.

But the best thing I found was how tied I was to my former employer. I didn’t realize how, after 27 years, I really I felt it had become my family. All of a sudden, I realized that I was basically going through the whole grieving process of losing my family, which was my job.

Then the class helped me realize that most people go through that when you lose your job. It was wonderful to be able to help everybody work through that. Following the class, we even started having monthly breakfasts to see how everybody was doing. It was a group of people coming together with a wonderful instructor and a really great course. It taught us how to see our potential again.

I wish everybody who becomes unemployed could take Strategies for Success because it gives you the confidence to go ahead. Being unemployed sort of makes you feel like a failure. Once you get a job, it makes you feel better. WorkSource explained the unemployment process and what was going on. But I think my favorite class — Strategies — really helped me prepare.

As a partner in Washington’s WorkSource system and the American Job Center Network, the Employment Security Department helps people – unemployed or not – find new jobs and learn new skills. We help them experience the life-changing Power of a Job.  We also work with businesses, which are Powered by Jobs, to help them find employees.

To leave a comment, select the comment bubble icon next to the title of this post.


Teamwork: Three WorkSource staff connect a veteran to housing, food and finally – a job

It’s Workforce Wednesday, when we spotlight Power of a Job success stories.

This week, three WorkSource staff demonstrate the value of collaboration. WorkSource is a partnership of state, local and non-profit agencies that work together — often in the same buildings — to deliver employment and training services to Washington businesses and job seekers. Debi Keyser, Jarred Rendon and Luis Torres all work at WorkSource Central Basin in Moses Lake. They relied on each other to help a customer find temporary housing and food for his family. They then assessed his skills and connected him to a great job.

In this story, but not in all, the customer is a military veteran. WorkSource places about 10,000 veterans into jobs each year.

Debi: Hi, I’m Debi Keyser with WorkSource Central Basin here in Moses Lake, Washington. I’m a WorkFirst [Washington’s temporary cash assistance program] job coach.

Jarred: Hello, my name is Jarred Rendon. I’m a case manager for Support & Services for Veterans and Families (SSVF) at HopeSource, working in Grant and Adams counties.

Luis: Hi, my name is Luis Torres. I’m a veterans employment representative for WorkSource Central Basin. Today, for Power of a Job, we’d like to feature a veteran family we supported here at WorkSource.

One of the great things about this story is that involved multiple case managers working on behalf of this family. It showcases one of many successes that happen throughout our state. Hundreds of people come through our office doors needing assistance, and we provide that assistance. Most of these stories go untold, but here is one of them. Jared will kick off the story.

Jarred: The veteran family contacted me looking for services. The first thing we did was to identify barriers they had. The first barrier identified was transportation. Their vehicle was in need of some repairs and the tires were worn. The SSVF program was able to provide funds to get their vehicle repaired.

We also identified that they were homeless, living in their car with an infant. We connected them with a community partner: the Housing Authority of Grant County, which immediately provided transitional housing. The family was without income, so we connected them with WorkSource for employment services.

Luis: That’s how I met the family. I contacted them to set up an appointment. The father came in, and one of the first things we did was create a resume. We made sure we highlighted all his skills and abilities; we included all the things he learned in the military that translate to civilian job skills.

We created a account and uploaded his resume so that he could immediately start looking for jobs. One of the other great things WorkSource does is connect customers with a network of employers. We started sending off his resume (with his consent) to try to get him interviews. He had many gaps in his job history, so having a good solid resume was crucial. We referred him to WorkFirst.

Debi: The father was referred to me through the Department of Social & Health Services. I was working with him in the lobby of the Central Basin WorkSource center, when an employer walked in looking for somebody to install windows — a glazier position. I introduced the customer to the employer, who set up an interview. He was hired on the spot and started the next day. I was able to help him get gas for his vehicle and clothes for the job.

As Luis was saying, at WorkSource we offer a variety of services. All three of us worked with one individual and helped him to be a successful employee. He’s doing really well.

Jarred:  The client came in homeless, with many barriers to employment, and with our assistance started his job making $15 an hour and he’s now making over $20 an hour. So he’s providing for himself, his family and contributing to the community.  He is very, very happy.

Luis: That’s what we do at WorkSource! You have a whole team that works for you, making sure we do everything we can to help you be successful. WorkSource does work!

 Debi: Yes, it does!

As partners in Washington’s WorkSource system and the American Job Center Network, the Employment Security Department helps people – unemployed or not – find new jobs and learn new skills. We help them experience the life-changing Power of a Job.  We also work with businesses to help them find employees because we know they are Powered by Jobs.

 To leave a comment, select the comment bubble icon next to the title of this post.

WorkSource tenacity, ingenuity finally leads veteran with a disability to his dream career

Workforce Wednesday celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month with a post about “Ron,” a combat veteran with a disability. Over the course of four years, Ron worked with Seth Maier, a veterans-employment specialist at WorkSource Spokane. After many attempts at school and jobs, persistence finally pays off when Ron lands a job with an orthotics and prosthetics company.

Disability Employment Awareness Month is an opportunity to showcase an often overlooked workforce with a wealth of talent, as well as the employers who hire them.

“Employers benefit from hiring employees with diverse abilities,” said Mandeep Kaundal, chairman of the Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues & Employment. “It drives innovation.”

And now we present today’s Power of a Job story: Seth Maier of WorkSource Spokane.

Hello. I’m a Disabled Veteran Outreach Program case manager at WorkSource Spokane. People in my position are stationed in most of the WorkSource offices in Washington state and also in most of the American Job Centers across the United States.

Today I want to tell you a story about an Army veteran I started working with in 2014. “Ron” had some significant injuries that required him to use a cane. He had a hard time finding a direction. He had this yo-yo pattern of pursuing education, getting a job and then going back to school. He worked as a medical technician and then got burnt out. Then he pursued a fabrication job, but his injuries wouldn’t let him be successful, so he went back to school, then dropped out to get a security job.

He was burning through his education benefits and burning through his entitlement, and each time he returned to a job, it seemed like he was getting less and less pay. So when he came back to me, he was really unsure about what direction to take.

We offered some skills assessments, and it pointed to him to the health sciences field. I also knew that he had a talent in ceramics. He had built these beautiful water pitchers on a ceramics wheel, so I knew he had a very sensitive touch, as well as a fabrication and engineering background. I knew about an orthotics and prosthetics program at our local community college, and I thought it would be a good fit.

I arranged for him to have a visit there, a tour of the facility and to learn about the program. He got very excited and he enrolled. He applied for the Veterans Administration’s vocational rehabilitation program, they approved him, and he was off! This past July, he finished the program having only one last step to complete a 199-hour practicum before graduation.

We located a hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and arranged for him to get an online informational interview. During the interview, we couldn’t see them or hear them, but the system said we were connected. Ron was getting really stressed and verbalized how important this opportunity was for him, and that he didn’t want to mess it up. He was getting really nervous, and then all of a sudden, his cellphone rang and it was the hospital saying, “Hey, we can hear you and see you just fine!” So it really broke the ice and helped to humanize him. It allowed him to drop his ego and to be really honest about what he wanted.

Ron was from Michigan, and this job was an opportunity for him to go home. The hospital was so impressed, they immediately followed up with a formal interview and ended up creating a position for him. Not only was he able to complete his practicum, but he also got a paid position. They arranged that, as soon as he got his certification, his pay would immediately go up.

This hospital was really the point of the spear in orthotics and prosthetics across the nation, so Ron was really excited about this opportunity. The hospital offered a $2,000 reimbursement for his relocation expenses. We got him over there using the Hilton Honors Program, which allowed him to be housed in a hotel for the first three days. He was able to get temporary housing, while another organization helped him rent an apartment.

This is just an awesome story. At WorkSource, we develop long-term relationships with some of our customers. We see them over the years, building rapport and friendships. We want the best for the person we’re serving. It doesn’t matter if it takes years; our customers know that if they need to get a better job, they can always come back. We’re available for them. This is just an exceptional example of a long-term relationship with a combat veteran who needed help reaching his employment goals.

As partners in Washington’s WorkSource system and the American Job Center Network, the Employment Security Department helps people – unemployed or not – find new jobs and learn new skills. We help them experience the life-changing Power of a Job. We also work with businesses to help them find employees because we know they are Powered by Jobs.

To leave a comment, select the comment bubble icon next to the title of this post.

Mexican Consulate in Seattle and Employment Security Department sign historic agreement

For the first time, the Employment Security Department (ESD) and the Consulate of México in Seattle have a formal protocol for working together.

ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine and Consul Roberto Dondisch signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) — one copy in Spanish and one in English — to document how the two organizations work together. The signing ceremony aligned with Hispanic Heritage Month, Mexican Independence Day and Labor Rights Week.

Suzi LeVine and Roberto Dondisch

Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine and Consul Roberto Dondisch display the signed Memorandum of Cooperation — one copy in Spanish and one in English. One wall of the room where the signing ceremony took place was made entirely of glass. On the other side, individuals and families awaited their turn to speak with consulate staff about a variety of issues, and the voices carried slightly through the glass. “I love that we have the sounds of kids around us,” said Suzi in her remarks. “They represent the work we do.”


For years, the Mexican Consulate and ESD have collaborated to help Mexican Nationals and Mexican-Americans in Washington understand their rights and responsibilities under the unemployment program. By law, they jointly handle labor-related complaints. And — not by law, but through a shared desire to serve their common customers — they travel to different areas of the state to meet with people who speak Spanish, educating them about services offered by the two entities and about WorkSource.

Alicia Cárdenas, Employment Security’s Spanish outreach manager, represents ESD at these outreach events, where she often fields questions from consulate staff about how to handle and where to refer people with particular labor issues.
“The majority of consulate staff are appointees arriving mainly from México City or other states, and when they come to Washington, they’re not familiar with state law,” said Alicia. “ESD has mechanisms to handle just about any situation we encounter. And this MOC documents how we work together.”

Nothing in the MOC is new, Alicia said.

“We put the pieces together and memorialized the way the two organizations work together. It’s a package that we all can refer to, even as the players on both sides change over the years,” she said.

The signing ceremony took place in late August at the Consulate of México in Seattle.

Staff from the Consulate of Mexico in Seattle and from the Washington State Employment Security Department

Gathering after the signing ceremony are, left to right: Luis Mingo, the consulate’s head of Political and Economic Affairs; Deputy Consul Eduardo Sosa; Ricardo Mora of the consulate’s Protection and Legal Affairs Department; Rafael Colón, ESD’s SharedWork marketing manager; Lorena Toyos of the consulate’s Protection and Legal Affairs Department; Alicia Cárdenas, ESD’s Spanish outreach manager; Consul Roberto Dondisch; Commissioner Suzi LeVine; René Maldonado, Washington’s state monitor advocate; Janelle Guthrie, ESD’s communications director; Alberto Isiodia, Central WorkSource Region director; and Diana Oliveros of the consulate’s Communities Department.

“Staff at the Employment Security Department…provide an array of outreach and advocacy services to those you serve. And to be clear — it is who WE serve!”
Commissioner Suzi LeVine said in her remarks at the ceremony. “These shared customers deserve the clarity and respect this memorandum signifies.”

ESD works with other consulates, too, but its relationship with the Mexican Consulate is the most active because Washington is home to 1 million Hispanics. Plus, many Hispanics come to Washington to work.

#Power of a Job: Older job seeker finds understanding and a new job at WorkSource

Happy Workforce Wednesday!

As partners in Washington state’s WorkSource system and the American Job Center Network, the Employment Security Department helps people – unemployed or not – find new jobs and learn new skills. We help them experience the life-changing Power of a Job.

Every week, we spotlight a different Power of a Job success story. Today we bring you Michael Rivers of WorkSource Lynnwood, who shares how he helped an older job seeker find a new job. Michael and other WorkSource professionals understand that older workers often have difficulty navigating the modern job market. Patience and time help, as Michael’s story illustrates.

Here’s Michael’s story:

In September, Rose came in to WorkSource Lynnwood. She’s a 59-year-old woman who lost her job after working for a long time for an insurance underwriter.  She was very distraught and not used to looking for work. She was totally stressed out over writing her resume and with anything related to her job search. Rose was a very private woman, and getting into financial matters and the things we needed to do made her very uncomfortable.

I approached her with tact and said I would help her go as far as she wanted. I assured her that her comfort zone was OK, and that we could work gradually at whatever pace she was ready go.

By the time we got to October, she was ready to start. She began her job search and we were able to work through her resume issues.

In December, she started working at another insurance company as a commercial account assistant. She’s making $25.64 an hour, which is about $53,000 per year, and she’s very happy. She sent me an email saying she is enjoying her job, and she thanked me for all my help.

I’m just grateful I was able to help somebody. That’s what we do here! We help people. We hope the community around us will take full advantage of the resources provided at Lynnwood’s office.

To leave a comment, select the comment bubble icon next to the title of this post.