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.

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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.

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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: Homeless veteran discovers WorkSource isn’t only about finding a job

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. This week, we bring you Seth Maier, who helps connect veterans to jobs, training and other services at WorkSource Spokane.

For veterans or anyone, WorkSource Spokane isn’t only about finding a job, Seth says. Through his story about helping one homeless veteran, Seth shows how WorkSource can help people overcome barriers preventing them from achieving what they want in life.

Here is Seth’s story.
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I want to share a story today about a homeless female veteran who I worked with recently. She moved from the East coast to the Spokane region due to health conditions. She was homeless for about three years and had gotten herself to Spokane hitching rides. It wasn’t a very safe situation.

She had experienced a lot of trauma in her life – both during and after the military. By the time she got to me, she had a lot of trust issues. It took us a few meetings for me to get a clear understanding of what she needed.

She really wasn’t employable when we first started because of her issues, but she had connected with the Veterans Administration (VA) while on the East Coast. Unfortunately, she had kind of given up on the system because there’s a lot of roadblocks and barriers working with the VA, and she’d lost trust. Unbeknownst to her, the system was working for her, but because of her homelessness, the VA couldn’t contact her.

The VA did award her a pension, and though she didn’t have a bank account for the VA to deposit it, the money accumulated. When we reconnected her with the VA system, I got her to trust in it again, and the VA was able to find her and award her the funds.

The money immediately got her out of her homeless situation. She’s in a better spot now and she’s getting access to care through the VA system. She may even find herself employment-ready in the future. For right now, she’s connected to services that she’s already earned through her honorable service.

I wanted to share this story because I really want veterans to know that coming to WorkSource isn’t always about employment. Whatever you’re facing – maybe you have significant struggles in your life and you’re not sure what resources are in your community. Veteran representatives at WorkSource are familiar with all the community resources. It doesn’t matter what barrier you have; we likely have the solution. We’ve got partners in the community so we can introduce you to other helpful specialists and make sure you’re getting treated with respect and dignity.

Power of a job: Cross-county collaboration helps a veteran relocate and land a job

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. This week, we bring you Luis Torres and Clint Hede, who both help connect veterans to jobs, training and other services. Luis is a Disabled Veterans Outreach Program case manager for WorkSource Central Basin, which covers Grant and Adams counties. Clint is a Local Veterans Employment Representative for WorkSource offices in Yakima, Klickitat, Kittitas and Skamania counties.

Here’s a story about how they collaborated across counties to help a veteran find a job and relocate so that she could accept the job.

Luis: So, today we’re here to talk about Bobbi. She’s an Army veteran who was referred to me through the vocational rehabilitation and employment program that’s run through the Veterans Administration. Bobbi was getting ready to finish up an internship in information technology (IT) and needed help finding stable employment after her internship ended.

We helped revise her resume and started providing referrals to jobs and service agencies for veterans. We also helped enroll her in the Hilton Honors Program, which gives 100,000 hotel points to veterans to use for anything job related. So, when they need to travel for job interviews and things like that, they can use the points instead of their own income.

We were having a tough time finding her a job when I saw an email from Clint, saying that he had a good job for anybody interested in IT work.

Clint: I had heard about an opening for an IT professional at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I sent out the notice to WorkSource offices regionally because I didn’t have anyone for the position locally. Luis responded rapidly with Bobbi’s resume, which I sent to the hiring authority, and they were very interested. They interviewed Bobbi, liked her and hired her.

Luis: After Bobbi was offered the job, we had a problem: She lived in Soap Lake and the job was located in Prosser — definitely not a commutable distance. She already had finished her internship; she had no income and was living in a travel trailer. She also had therapy horses that we had to consider when helping her relocate.

We reached out to the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs about a program called the Veterans Innovation Program, or VIP. Bobbi was awarded $2,000 to help her relocate. We helped her find a rental where she could have her horses. She moved to the Yakima area, started work and has been very happy in her new federal job.

In closing, WorkSource has a huge network of veterans employment representatives throughout the state, and we use each other. We’re able to connect veterans to different opportunities that they might not normally know about.

Clint: And if you’re an employer looking to hire a veteran, we highly encourage you to participate in Washington state’s YesVets program. Go to YesVets.org.