Making Connections: Beyond Career Training and Job Search Services
Gabby Hanson and Jennifer Croaxton
When Gabby and Jen came to Grundy Workforce Services in January of 2017, they had never met. Both were facing transitions in their lives that lead them to our center in search of a new career path; both selected our popular Advanced C.N.A program which includes Phlebotomy and EKG training along with Certification as a Nursing Assistant.
Within a few weeks of walking through our doors, they were enrolled in training to become C.N.A.s. In May of 2017, Jen and Gabby were accepted into the Phlebotomy training where they found their true calling and each other.
In the months since, they have become great friends, remain classmates in the final phase of their training, and will soon be co-workers at Morris Hospital. Their new careers - Gabby works as a C.N.A., and Jen found employment in the lab as a phlebotomist - allow them to care for their families and feel proud about what they contribute. Gabby described her experience as "...the best journey I have been on".
Veterinary Technician Internship
Alisha Emmons came to our program in spring of 2017. She was one of several Grundy County residents affected by the closure of the ITW Plant in Mazon.
Alisha decided to make a change and pursue training in an entirely new field - Veterinary Medicine. She came to Grundy Workforce Services (GWS) after learning that we could help pay for her education. To be eligible for admission to the Vet Tech program at Joliet Junior College, applicants must complete 80 hours of field experience.
In additional to providing training dollars to qualified individuals, GWS also offers work-based learning in the form of paid internships. Through a partnership with Dwight Veterinary Clinic, Alisha was able to complete all 80 hours of field experience required for admission to her chosen program. Because she performed so well during those first weeks, Dwight Veterinary Clinic opted to keep her on for the maximum internship period allowed.
Our internships benefit the community in two ways:
- Job seekers looking to transition to new careers gain needed exposure to their new field. Many young clients come in our center never having held a job. Our internships allow them to develop critical employability skills in a learning-based environment.
- Local businesses have the opportunity to try out new employees without incurring the expense of training. Several businesses have gone on to extend offers to our clients after the six-month internship has concluded. For other businesses and not-for-profit organizations, our interns provide an extra pair of hand they couldn't otherwise afford.
Advantage Driver Training
In November of 2016, Ken Svab found himself facing a situation that is all too common. After many years of work in one field, his job was eliminated, and he had to start over.
While attending a Communication Skills workshop offered at our center in Morris, Ken learned of the career retraining support services available to him.
Over the next few months, Ken researched and explored several employment, training, and career options and reached a conclusion; he no longer wanted to work behind a desk. In May of 2017, he enrolled in CDL training through Advantage Truck Driving School. By August, he was a fully licensed CDL-A driver, and today, is employed in his new field.
Ken had this to say about coming to GWS "I wish to thank all people - receptionists, secretaries, counselors, and people I have met and do not have a title for - at the Grundy County Workforce for all the wonderful work and a great experience. Everyone always has a smile on their face with a no-rush, "we have time for you" attitude, and in particular, the assistance in updating my resume, workshops that have been offered, personalized guidance and suggestions.
For many students, transferring from Joliet Junior College (JJC) to a four-year college or university is a popular path. However, what happens when a student decides to do the reverse route?
Erin Tezak, of Mazon, started college at Carroll University in Wisconsin. After a couple of weeks there, she quickly found out that the university life was not as she had imagined.
"I had so many difficulties trying to get in contact with my professors," she said. "I did not like that at all."
After one semester, Tezak made the decision to move back home. She considered many different schools before choosing JJC.
"Since I am from Seneca and JJC was in my backyard, I never saw it as an option. However, after meeting with Workforce Development and weighing all of my options, JJC was the best choice for me and it was the best decision I have made."
Tezak chose JJC for three reasons: affordability, location, and the nursing program.
"When I first started to look into other colleges, I knew that I did not want to be bombarded with debt. I also knew that I did not want to travel too far. JJC allowed me to do just that."
Thanks to the Grundy Workforce Services program, Tezak received a grant through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which helped pay for her tuition, books and the nursing board tests.
The biggest reason why she chose JJC was because of its nursing program.
"The program has so many great professors and advisors. They really care about their students and they want you to succeed," she said.
Tezak said that once she decided to make JJC her new "home" everything else just fell in place.
"When I got into the nursing program, I just fell in love. The Nursing Department has so much to offer, from the department tutor, to peer mentors, and the state-of-the-art simulation lab. Being at JJC just felt like a second home. I finally felt like I had everything I needed to succeed," she added.
Tezak said that she has had ample supply of mentors.
"My first semester clinical instructor, Mary Magruder was amazing. She was very comforting to me my first semester when I was not sure of anything I was doing or if nursing was even the path for me. Another professor who really got me passionate about nursing was my third semester clinical instructor, Colleen Kestel-Branchaw, who retired this past May. Her passion for nursing pushed me to keep trying my hardest even when I felt burnt out and overwhelmed with school and working," Tezak said.
Tezak also credits Sarah Hintze, manager of Grundy Workforce Services at the Morris Education Center, who pushed her to persevere through the program.
"She is one of the people who guided me through my entire experience at JJC," Tezak said. "She was always there if I needed someone to talk to and she always steered me in the right direction. Her strong passion about JJC is why I decided to go to JJC."
JJC Automotive and Internship Completion
Addison (Addie) Kaldheim is a smart and hard-working young man halfway through the Auto Technology program at Joliet Junior College. Although this program has a large class load, Addie was anxious to utilize the internship program through Grundy Workforce Services as well.
Addie knew of an opportunity with Seggebruch Farm in Grundy County where he could build his skills working on large equipment, such as tractors and seeders. Addie provided us with contact information and consequently, the internship was set up and started. He worked very early hours and learned quite a bit in the field of diesel maintenance. He has successfully completed this internship and is now an employee of the farm. He hopes to get his Commercial Driver's License (CDL) soon so he can add more responsibilities to his job with Seggebruch. In the meantime, Addie will begin his final year of auto classes this fall.
A picture is worth a thousand words, and when Addie is working at the farm, it is obvious how successful he is and will continue to be.
Certified Nursing Assistant
A bundle of energy and questions walked through the doors of Grundy Workforce earlier this year. Alena Borchert had a vision of helping people and believed she could find a way. A wife with two small children, she needed help paying for her schooling, but she got more. "I would encourage everyone who wants to do something with a career path to go through [Grundy Workforce Services]...if you don't know where to begin, [it is] a perfect place to start" states Alena.
The process of becoming a certified client with GWS was not difficult, but the Certified Nursing Assistant (C.N.A.) program was demanding at times, especially the quizzes; because she is dyslexic, she worked with Joliet Junior College's STAR program for additional assistance in her academics. Alena's "can-do" attitude never slumped. She proudly finished the C.N.A program with an A grade and is currently working at Rosewood Nursing Home in Joliet.
"I have a career I can be proud of and my kids can be proud of me too" says Alena. She loves the hard and meaningful work she does with the residents at Rosewood, and says she "couldn't have done it without the help of the Grundy Workforce Services."
Choosing a career in automotive technology would be challenging for anyone, and a woman could encounter additional obstacles...unless you are Rachael Bass.
Growing up Rachael's idea of what she wanted to be ranged from a mermaid to a CIA Field Operative, but lucky for her, a random class choice, avoiding gym class and attending Grundy Area Vocational Center (GAVC), led to her career path of Automotive Technician. Rachael explained, "when I got to high school, I realized that I really had no idea of what I was doing...and was actually tracking towards being a drop out". She realized she loved auto classes, and "it also saved me from the path I was headed down at the time." Another random step brought her to Grundy Workforce Services when she came to the JJC Morris Education Center to inquire about a class -- very soon, she was a client.
Rachael is now in the last half of the JJC Automotive Technician program. When she is finished, she will receive a degree in Automotive Technology as well as ASE certifications and then continue her education at Southern Illinois University towards a B.S. in Automotive Technician.
Besides her academic success, Rachael successfully interned at two different local businesses this past year: Salclay (diesel) and J&A Automotive. "The opportunity to work with amazing mechanics as well as observing how a mechanic's shop is run is ...one of the biggest blessings in my education so far." Rachael's long-term goal is to own her own mechanic shop. She is now employed at Morris Public Works.
In addition to the funding, she was able to work with "some amazing people. Not only in the shops ...but also at Grundy Workforce Services." She is confident that with the credentials from JJC and her internship experience, she "will be leaps and bounds ahead of anyone else my age looking to go into this field." Rachael did not see obstacles in her path, only opportunities. Now she is paving the way for others.
Surprisingly, sometimes an unexpected roadblock can lead to a better life path. Dana Potoniec and her husband became unemployed at the same time; it was obvious she needed a career with longevity and earning potential to support her family.
The idea of going to school was very overwhelming for Dana. Nursing as a career was something she had thought about since the birth of her first child, now 23 years old. Because of time and money constraints, she was never able to pursue that dream. Dana reached out to Grundy Workforce Services for resources, funding and support; "Without Grundy Workforce Services I wouldn't have been able to afford to go back to school." Dana had a challenging road ahead of her, which included "developing text anxiety which I never had before. In nursing school, anything below 80% is failing. That really freaked me out. It wasn't until I realized that I never had trouble staying well above the 80% mark prior to nursing school that I was able to overcome the anxiety that I had developed." Dana's accomplishments are all well above failing: Certificate of Achievement for Practical Nursing, December graduate with an Associates of Applied Science in Nursing, State of Illinois Registered Professional Nurse license and an award given by the Nursing Department for Perseverance.
"Grundy Workforce Services gave me an incredible opportunity to go back to school and get my nursing degree so that I can obtain employment that allows me to help support my family. It also taught my children the importance of continuing their education after they graduate from high school. Lastly, it taught my family the importance of community and giving back. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to fulfill my lifelong dream of being a nurse."
JJC Process Operations Technology
Kameron knew he needed a career but wasn't sure in what industry. Kameron's father, ExxonMobil employee, talked to him about Process Operator positions and the financial stability they provide. Kameron was intrigued and started researching through Joliet Junior College's (JJC) Business and Industry Training department that offers short-term programs. He discovered that many of the people who enrolled in the Process Operator Technician program were receiving job offers at well-known companies such as ExxonMobil.
It took Kameron almost a little over a year to finally buckle down and make the decision to register and attend training so he could provide a stable future for himself. Kameron called and spoke to the program manager that answered course and post-completion questions. Unfortunately, Kameron was not in the position to pay for the program on his own. He was in conversations with his mother, who told him about grants that could possible pay for him to receive his training. Kameron, reached out to Grundy Workforce Services and became eligible for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) grant. Thus, he was able to enroll and was accepted into the Process Operator Technician program in August 2016.
Through hard work and dedication, Kameron successfully passed the Process Operator Technician program and began applying for jobs in the field. This month, Kameron accepted a new full-time job in his new training area allowing him to financially support himself: "The WIOA grant changed my life, without this grant I would still be working in the position I was in barely making ends meet. With the training from JJC, I was able to achieve a new job making twice what I was making at my previous job."
Advantage Driver Training
Starting a new career mid-life can be either intimidating or exciting-- Ted Trujillo chose to keep a positive mindset. Ted wanted to work in a field that was in high demand and growth. He researched the logistics field, specifically the CDL Driver training program at Advantage Driver Training. He knew this program would be a good fit.
Although he had some life twists that delayed his start date for training, in due course he was able to begin. There were no challenges while in the program, and Ted successfully completed with a Certificate from Advantage Driver Training; he is now an Illinois CDL Class A driver. Ted is employed with N.F.I. Interactive Logistics, LLC as a driver for Trader Joe' Warehouse in Minooka and enjoying his career.
Ted was looking to begin a new career, and at Grundy Workforce Services, he found resources, funding and support. It was an easy process to apply and was "explained by Jennifer in great detail... [she] is very helpful....great experience." Ted recommends Grundy Workforce Services to everyone: "Jennifer and the staff at Grundy Workforce are extremely friendly, supportive and encouraging thru all aspects of the program. They will go the extra mile for everyone."
JJC Automotive Services
Seeing a client leave Grundy Workforce is often sad; however, with Roberto Luna, pride and satisfaction were the only emotions swirling around him as he said his goodbyes to us.
When Roberto first came to our office, he was already walking in the career path of his choice - Automotive Service. He was enrolled with Joliet Junior College (JJC) and working a part-time job. However, with Pell grant funding being precarious, he wanted to avoid any future obstacles possible, and therefore applied to Grundy Workforce Services and consequently became a client.
It can be true that some young adults have a difficult time adjusting to a world without a lot of hand-holding, but Roberto does not fit that stereotype. He attended workshops, kept in contact often by email or by dropping in at the office, and always took his academic performance seriously. Rarely was he reminded of a deadline or an appointment.
Roberto graduated from JJC this past May with multiple honors: (3) three Certificates of Completions, (2) two Certificates of Achievements, and an Associate in Applied Science of Automotive Service. Although he could have stopped his career training at this point, Roberto instead packed up and headed to Southern Illinois University-Carbondale to begin undergraduate work in Automotive Technology.
He is a success academically and as a Grundy Workforce participant, but most importantly, as a human being. He is kind, hard-working and helpful to his friends and strangers alike. Roberto made our office laugh with his good natured spirit and smile, and we can't wait to hear of his college adventures.
JJC Nursing (RN)
Amber stopped into our office at Grundy Workforce Services, hoping to gain some information on the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) grant and how it could help pay for her to attend Joliet Junior College's nursing program.
As a working mother, Amber already had a lot on her plate but she was determined to complete her degree in this very challenging field. After determining Amber was eligible for our services, she enrolled in nursing classes. With the financial support she received from Grundy Workforce Services, Amber continued to do well in her courses and said it really helped that she didn't have the extra stress of paying for her education.
Amber recently completed her training and graduated this May! Toward the end of her training, Amber met with her coordinator to review and update her resume to prepare for her job search. Before graduating, Amber was offered and accepted a Registered Nurse (RN) position with Morris Hospital. Amber is so excited to begin this next chapter of her life!
GED and JJC Certified Nurse Assistant
Early 2015, a young woman called asking about information for her sister who had just moved back to the United States from Mexico. Her sister graduated from high school and was interested in becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (C.N.A.). An appointment was made and Veronica Gonzalez came into our office to explore career services.
Veronica was shy and needed to acquire the GED. Veronica never complained or questioned this-she just jumped in. She began classes at the Joliet Junior College Morris Education Center immediately, and within 6 months, she received her GED.
Although she was attending the GED classes, she was intending on going to school for her C.N.A. license as soon as she could. To bolster her self-confidence and soft skills such as communication and interaction with the public, Veronica became an intern at the Coal City Public Library. The library was Veronica's first choice for an internship site - and what a great choice she made.
The Executive Director, Jolene Frankovich, praised Veronica's excellent participation and contributions to the library and it's patrons. She worked in many different departments including but not limited to the children's department. Veronica believes she gained experience that will serve her well in her career choice as a C.N.A. It was during this internship Veronica began her C.N.A. training at JJC.
Veronica completed her internship with an excellent evaluation, has her GED, and is on her way to becoming a licensed Nursing Assistant with certifications in Phlebotomy and EKG. Veronica states that the process of entering into the Grundy Workforce Services youth program was not difficult; she has gained much since her first visit. We are proud of Veronica, and if she has accomplished this much in one year, we are sure she will go far in her future years as well.
JJC Computer Assisted Design and Drafting (CADD)
Jordan Bunzel, a young woman, has built her own road to success. As a single woman, Jordan worked full time in a job that was physically taxing, low pay and no prospects. She recognized the need to work in a field which availed better pay, benefits and growth potential: Computer Assisted Design and Drafting (CADD) was her choice.
As a client of Grundy Workforce Services, Jordan says, "The process is not at all hard; there is paperwork and then it's up to you to keep it going. [Staff] are nice and helpful. Jen has been a life-saver...and I appreciate everything she has done to help me with my education so much".
Jordan began training at Joliet Junior College (JJC) in their CADD certificate of achievement program with Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funding: "GWS has helped me a lot...pay for college and the books for my entire degree without me obtaining anymore debt. That is awesome." With her determination and focus, she has maintained high grades, built networking relationships with her professors and peers, began tutoring and mentoring others and enhanced her program to the CADD associate's degree. She will be finished with her formal training at JJC at the end of this semester, May 2016.
In addition to these substantial gains in her soft and academic skills, Jordan is currently acquiring real-life job skills through the work-based learning. Seating Concepts in Rockdale, IL hired her as a CADD Drafter/Detailer/Technician. Of this experience, Jordan feels, "the internship is so worth the time. [I] gained knowledge of this field, learned skills that prepared me for future jobs. [I] am happy I am in this internship and not just running to a job that I may not be prepared for. It's nice when you find a place that respects you being fresh out of school and are willing to teach you. I recommend anyone completing a degree to go through an internship".
Jordan is thriving in this internship and is garnering much needed hands-on experience. Perseverance and tenacity have been Jordan's guiding characteristics under the Grundy Workforce Services program. Her academic and soft skills are strong, but it is her drive to overcome hurdles and grasp possibilities that have ultimately led her to a place of dynamic and prosperous self-reliance. "I highly recommend GWS, for they have so much to give," Jordan offered, "and it can only benefit you."
HTI Patient Care Technician
Many young people come through our doors for many reasons, but few go beyond their original goals. Miranda Carter is an example of how hard work, perseverance and positive attitude can change someone's life.
At her entrance in Grundy Workforce, Miranda had some obstacles to overcome. Academically Miranda struggled with reading comprehension, yet persisted and passed eligibility requirements. She was working an overnight job, supporting herself, and functioning as emotional support for her atypical family. However, she had had little support of her own.
After researching program options, Miranda chose to attend Genesis Healthcare Institute. Genesis provided her with academic support while she trained as a Patient Care Tech-her ideal career. The first class, Nursing Assistant, proved difficult because of her reading comprehension limitations, but she counteracted this with multiple readings, taking copious notes and studying. She did very well in her clinical and was praised by the school administrator for her diligence.
During this time, Miranda decided to take advantage of the Internship portion of the WIOA program. She researched local employers and submitted her resume to Rezin Orthopedics. I accompanied her on her interview: She was well spoken, poised and had obviously done research on the employer and field. The tie-in of medical office experience, understanding and learning medical billing and coding as well as interacting with staff and patients was an apt match. She was praised by Rezin Office throughout her experience.
Mid-way through the internship, personal matters developed which were out of Miranda's control. She kept in contact, did not miss work, and sought assistance. Unfortunately, she was forced to leave school and the internship. Rezin Orthopedics supported decision and provided a positive final evaluation; Genesis assured her she could resume her training when she was able.
Miranda was gone for approximately 5 weeks. After her return, she stepped back into her training. Miranda's training as a Patient Care Tech will be complete at the end of this month. Miranda recently was hired at Heritage Assisted Living in Dwight; soon after her start date, she was offered full time employment with benefit. This speaks to her work ethic, ability and kindness.
As long as I have now known Miranda, she has never seen herself as having less than others or asked for special help. She is gracious, willing to accept suggestions and always thankful. Miranda has achieved her original goal of becoming a Patient Care Tech, yet this aspiration may well be overshadowed: Miranda is researching nursing programs for her future. Wherever Miranda steps next will surely be a vibrant illustration for others to observe and follow.
JJC Patient Care Technician
I believe I was meant to be a Patient Care Tech. It makes me happy knowing I make a difference in people's day. When I was going through the process of trying to join the "bridge program" to become a C.N.A at JJC, there was a counselor who told me about Grundy Workforce Services. I called and spoke to Sarah Hintze, who gave me information about the WIOA grant and programs. Once I researched the Patient Care Tech program offered at the Healthcare Training Institute, I felt going through Grundy Workforce was the right choice. I didn't want to just stop at C.N.A. I eventually wanted to be certified as an EKG technician and phlebotomist as well. Grundy Workforce helped me achieve all three certificates with ease.
I never thought before I entered the WIOA program that I would be able to feel worthy of something great, or to be considered more than just a "housewife" to my family. The WIOA program has helped me make such positive changes in my life. Due to my training, I have an increased belief in myself and my abilities. This opportunity has given me my confidence back. I was lost before I entered the program and I didn't think my career goals mattered, nor did I think about my future. Thanks to this program, I now envision my life moving forward.
Now, I know I will never stop succeeding. I have a fulfilled sense of achievement because of the WIOA Program. When starting the program, I had a two year old child and soon became pregnant with my second baby. Throughout my training, I was never made to feel as if I had to quit or stop, to only be a mother. They have supported me every step of the way and with their help I have been able to successfully finish the Patient Care Tech program, raise my kids, and take on two jobs that I absolutely love. The program lifted my spirits and made a great impact on not only my life, but my family's as well. I know my future is brighter and believe there is still greatness out there. The WIOA program has given me hope and helped me to never give up because I know I can continue to succeed. I am truly beyond grateful! I cannot imagine where I would be if I have never pursued the workforce program.
Youth Internship and JJC Allied Health Student
Young adults are often stereotyped as groups of directionless creatures waiting to become adults. Alyssa Garcia blows this bleak personification out of the water.
At 18 years old, Alyssa was certified into the youth program at Grundy Workforce Services. Alyssa did not have childhood dreams of being a nurse, but she knew she wanted to be self-sufficient and responsible for her own success. Through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) youth scholarship, Alyssa began the Advanced Nursing Assistant (C.N.A.) training program at Joliet Junior College (JJC) and will complete her coursework and clinicals in Spring 2016. Although she knew the classes might be difficult, she enjoys the Advanced C.N.A program. Because she finds this field so interesting, Alyssa would like to pursue a higher medical degree in the future. Her ultimate dream is to own a medical practice of some sorts.
As one of the benefits under the youth program, Alyssa is participating in a paid internship program at We Care of Grundy County in Morris. The experience of working with diverse clients has given her confidence and skills that will help her be successful in her career. After she finishes this internship, she will begin applying for employment with local employers; she is hoping to find an open position with Morris Hospital.
The training, financial assistance, workshops and internship have all been great positive steps to her goal of being an independent and successful young adult. Alyssa is a role model for her peers and the youth that walk into Grundy Workforce Services. Good job Alyssa!
Medical Billing and Coding
Amy Hakey had been working for a local company for almost 20 years when they abruptly closed their doors. She was left with very little options pertaining to work and didn't know where to turn. Amy was referred to Grundy Workforce Services through unemployment and quickly discovered she was eligible for services. After much discussion and research, Amy decided to capitalize on her bookkeeping experience and enrolled in the medical billing and coding program at Genesis Healthcare Institute in Romeoville. Upon successful completion of her program, Amy had several interviews and was able to obtain full-time employment in medical billing and coding at a local company!
Amy is a wonderful example of how the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) scholarship can benefit members of Grundy County. We wish her the best in her new career!
Dennis Borens was working for a family business, trying to get more experience as a big-rig driver when he got laid off due to lack of work, and was faced with unemployment. His job search was challenging due to his lack of training and experience in the trucking industry. Dennis was told about scholarship programs available through Grundy Workforce and how we could be of service during this challenging time. Dennis was extremely excited when he found out he was eligible for services, and decided to attend Star Truck Driving School in Oswego to obtain his CDL A license. Once Dennis completed his training, he immediately received a job offer from NFI Interactive Logistics and is now a full-time driver for the company!
Dennis is a wonderful example of how the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) scholarship can benefit members of Grundy County. We wish him the best in his new career!
Being diligent and perseverant is what characterizes Joshua Biggers.
Josh is a Grundy youth client who came to our office at the beginning of December 2014. He wanted his GED and a good career; his father told him about our program. After conversing, it was clear he had two goals: obtain a GED and a job in his dream career within the railroad industry.
Josh contacted the Joliet Junior College Department of Adult Education and Literacy (DAEL), quickly did his GED orientation, and was enrolled in GED classes at the JJC Morris Education Center for the Spring 2015 semester. He never missed a class, worked hard and got to know his classmates. At the end of the semester, he was well-prepared to take his GED tests and passed all four. His last challenge was the U.S. and IL Constitution test. Within a month, he acquired the test materials, tested and was finished.
Now that his first goal of obtaining his GED was reached - within 6 months - Josh diligently works towards his second goal. "A whole world of opportunities opened up," Josh believes. He is currently researching and applying to different positions within the railroad career field. He has had some callbacks and is currently interviewing.
Josh is an example of what hard work, goal setting, and help from Workforce Development can do. Grundy Workforce Services "is a good program because it can help young adults transition from minimum wage jobs to actual careers. If you can set your mind to it, you can do anything" stated Josh.
Associate of Applied Science in Nursing
Shantel Caccamo came into the Grundy Workforce Services office seeking financial assistance in order to continue her education. Her husband kept getting laid off from his job and she knew she had to do something to help her family's income situation. She applied and was awarded grant funding via the Workforce Investment Act. "The grant made it possible for me to finish school when my family didn't have the money nor did we qualify for FAFSA."
"My career/educational goal was to obtain my Associates of Applied Science in Nursing", explained Shantel. As of December 16th she reached that goal. She also found a job as a nurse and is contributing to her household's income. On a personal note she states, "My daughter tells me that I'm her role-model. That boosts my self-esteem". Because of this, "I plan on continuing my education to get my Bachelor of Science in Nursing".
Shantel attributes her success to the help of her WIA coordinator: "Having the opportunity to have financial assistance has been the best ... but beyond that I had a case manager who was in my corner and was there for me. I never felt alone. She's not just my advisor, case manager, but a life long friend".
Process Operations Technician
Mark Christopher was an ironworker before he visited our office. He had worked on and off with no steady long- term work since 2009 and was looking for some direction. "I was waiting in line to fill out my Link card forms when I started looking around and thinking there has to be something better" explained Mark. "I walked into your (Grundy Workforce Services) office and asked about your resume class. I really think that was the changing moment. No longer did Mark want to wonder if he would have a paycheck at the end of the week to support himself, his wife and four children. Mark was financially struggling, but he found a way: "The WIA grant gave me hope to a better future. It also gave me options in the workforce. The network and connections are unbelievable." Mark worked very hard and within 6 months he had finished training in the Process Operations Technician program at Joliet Junior College and was working at an internship program for BP Amoco in Whiting, Indiana. "I have achieved great success through the program. Yes, the goal was to get a job, but I got so much more. I received offers from a few of the best companies in the industry; I had the ability to choose and control where I wanted to work. But, the key to this program was the guidance I was given and my own determination to become successful." turning point in my life. That was the day that I stopped feeling sorry for myself and committed to a change".
Mark is now employed as a full time employee in the BP Amoco site in Manhattan, IL. Mark's family is now stable financially and he has hope and vision for a continuing brighter future.
Previous Success Stories
Nicole Feiner: Patient Care Technician
Nicole Feiner knew she loved working with people and helping others. Her dream of becoming a nurse was far from her previous job experience of stocking shelves and customer service. Her sister had gone through Grundy Workforce and suggested Nicole do the same.
Nicole attended a Transitioning Young Adults (TYA) orientation and shortly after was made eligible for grant funding to pursue training in the healthcare field. She successfully completed the Patient Care Technician program at Healthcare Training Institute and was hired full-time at a local nursing home. Within months, Nicole had accepted another more rewarding position with Silver Cross Hospital as a medical assistant.
"People like me who struggle financially can get help to achieve their dreams," Nicole expressed, "and I love my job, and I love the people I work with. I feel like reaching my goal of becoming a nurse is not too far away. Without the people at Grundy Workforce Services, I would not have been able to complete my education. Thanks again for everything that you have done to help me".
Nick Reilly: Full-time Employment at Grundy County Housing Authority
Nick Reilly came to Grundy Workforce Services determined to find a good paying job with benefits. He demonstrated hard work and a strong work ethic through his six-month internship allowing for the Grundy County Housing Authority (GCHA) to hire him after 8 years of not hiring a full-time employee. During his internship, he not only gained on-the-job work skills, but he also learned work ethic skills that he can carry with him to any job he obtains in the future.
Because of his internship, Nick saved enough money to purchase his first car and has a reliable means of transportation. For now, he plans to continue to be a great employee at GCHA and be a positive role model for his younger brother. Eventually, he plans to pursue a short-term training.
David Kellam: Truck Driver
David Kellam, a United States Army Veteran, was laid-off and receiving unemployment insurance benefits. He was in an industry where jobs were hard to find. David learned about the Grundy Workforce Services office through his local Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) office. He attended a Workforce Investment Act (WIA) orientation, to learn more about grants to financially assist him with training opportunities to make him marketable in a high-growth industry. David qualified to receive the National Emergency Grant (NEG) through which he successfully obtained his Commercial Driver's License (CDL) A with Hazmat endorsement. Once David completed the program, he was hired by CRST, a well-known logistics company. He is currently working full-time and enjoying his new field: "My career goal, is to be an owner operator". The NEG grant made it possible for me to get back to work, make a steady paycheck, and provide for my family". David added, "The overall experience with the grant was extremely positive. The staff at Grundy Workforce, as well as, Premier CDL were great!"
Michael Hester: Truck Driver
Michael stopped into the Grundy Workforce Services office looking for help with employment. While learning of the services, Michael was informed on the National Emergency Grant (NEG) grant opportunity to earn his Commercial Driver's License (CDL). He was made eligible for the grant due to being dislocated from his previous job. "Having the NEG grant is great for people who are unemployed. It allows people the opportunity to gain new skills which will give them better options for employment. Training grants are absolutely necessary." Michael finished the CDL training in 4 weeks and found employment using his new license and skills. "Having my CDL is great! It will allow me more options for employment. The process was easy and my case manager Sarah at GWS is awesome! Sarah and the entire staff at GWS are great people to work with."
Scott Young: Truck Driver
Before WIA, Scott worked at a company for 5 years and was then laid off. Due to his lack of training and education, Scott was unable to find a secure job. After being on unemployment and discussing with some friends, Scott knew he needed to gain some new skills. Scott learned about the WIA program. He attended a WIA orientation as well as went to Joliet Junior College to learn more about CDL training. Scott enrolled in the CDL program at JJC. "This program allowed me to take a fully funded college class, and 1 week after completing this class, I was working. I am now a truck driver and still employed." states Scott Young.
Robert Strezo: High-paying Employment at a Young Age
Robert Strezo, Transitioning Young Adults grant recipient, has come a really long way in a relatively short time. Robert is a young man who followed good advice from friends and advisors from the Transitioning Young Adults (TYA) program and is now gainfully employed as a Packaging F inisher Operator and Beader Operator at IOI Loder Croklaan in Channahon.
Robert had worked briefly at a warehouse; however, after being unemployed for a few months, he knew he needed to do something different. Through the word of mouth of a friend, he investigated the TYA program through the Grundy Workforce Services office.
Before working with Angie Ahng and Griselda Martinez, Robert spoke with a family friend who told him about the field of process operations. His friend explained to Robert that this field of work was going to be around for a long time and therefore could be a strong career choice. Robert praised Angie and Griselda for their help in his career journey.
When asked if he would recommend the WIA program, he said, "Absolutely! Everyone has been extremely helpful and friendly. All the help I was given seemed to be specialized to my individual needs." Robert reiterated that he was given exactly what he needed to succeed. And he is.
Rebecca had been working in design and drafting for more than 15 years, when she faced lay-off and unemployment. Her job search effort was challenging considering the economic times and her knowledge of current AutoCad programs. She was led to WIA during this timeframe due to the fact that she needed some updated training. Rebecca met with a JJC Advisor and created an academic plan to complete coursework necessary to meet industry/employer expectations in today's job market. After being laid off for 1½ years and gaining the training necessary, Rebecca recently accepted a full-time position. Rebecca commented "going to school and showing that on a resume, I believe, is a great help in locating a job." Rebecca had identified a need to enhance her knowledge of AutoCad to be viable in the workplace. She made the decision to return to the classroom in order to reach her career goals.
When asked about the WIA program and referring others to Grundy Workforce, Rebecca says "Absolutely! There are various workshops that are offered. The staff keeps in regular contact with telephone calls and email. It's a wonderful opportunity."
Dean Wakefield sought out WIA training in 2011, a couple of years after he was laid-off from the Alcoa plant due to a shutdown. His decision to seek out WIA training was due in part to the limited number of jobs available in the local area. Dean initially wasn't quite sure what goals to set for future training and employment.
After some analysis of his past work experiences in food service and industrial manufacturing, Dean decided that increasing his skills in the industrial industry would be most beneficial. He selected the Forklift Certification program at Joliet Junior College, anticipating that the combination of his past experience and this new certification would increase his chances of finding work.
When reflecting on the WIA program support and training completion, Dean feels "the biggest impact I had from the WIA training was the feeling that I wasn't alone in searching for work". Dean feels that the program pointed him in the right direction and showed him options he didn't realize were available. He also feels that the training he had through the WIA program allowed him to be looked at on a higher level professionally then someone who didn't have the same type of training. Dean stated "With the employment level the way it is currently just getting your foot in the door somewhere can make all the difference." He added "I would encourage anybody looking for work direction to consider the WIA program; you really have nothing to lose. As soon as I started the WIA process, the hopelessness I felt in my past job search efforts started to fade and I kept asking myself why I didn't start this sooner?"
Kim Herda has worked in office settings for the past 30 years - majority in medical office settings. When faced with dislocation and the closing of her office, she was faced with looking for new employment. While she had experience with a variety of computer programs and office machines, she realized that present day employers are looking for the crème of the crop, wanting people with college degrees. After futile attempts at gaining a new position, she started exploring her options on returning to school to complete a college degree. Kim found out about WIA and visited the Grundy Workforce Services office to seek support to return to school. Kim says "without WIA I would not have been able to return to school."
At this point in the WIA program Kim feels that it has been a positive experience. “I would never have been able to financially afford returning to school since I was not working. My workforce coordinator is extremely supportive and has been very helpful with everything every step of the way.” Kim is working on her Associates Degree for Administrative Assistant at Joliet Junior College. She also continued her job search and gained employment within the healthcare industry once again. “At this point in time I am still working on completing my degree, but at my coordinator’s suggestions the first few classes I completed were computer classes. These classes make me more marketable in the workforce and they have already paid off. I have been able to help co-workers and have more confidence when I’m using newer versions of programs that I have used for years. No more fumbling around looking for the menu items.”
When asked “If your WIA experience/support has been positive thus far, would you encourage other residents to consider this type of program?” Kim’s response is, “I would highly recommend anyone who qualifies for this program to do it. You are only improving yourself. There are times when it’s been a struggle between family, work, and school, but I it is totally worth it and in the long run my family will reap the benefits.”
"I have worked ever since I was able to drive. My first job was working at a hardware store while I was in High School. I learned from my parents the values of punctuality and working as smart as I could until the completion of the task would only benefit from hard work. This combination of problem solving and a strong work ethic has assisted me throughout all of the jobs I have had during my working life. After High School I worked construction in the summer driving off road dump trucks to pay for my college. I was working on completing my general education courses with the hope of being accepted into a Physical Therapy program. Unfortunately, this goal was never met. As we all know, life changes and we have to do what is necessary to survive. I worked hard operating heavy equipment for the next decade until another change occurred. As the economy slowed the career that I had worked so hard to keep had vanished. I could not wait for the construction industry to recover from this economic crisis."
My only option was to retrain for a different career. I had to find a way to return to school. I heard about the WIA program from a friend, and after a few meetings and tests, I found that I would be eligible to use this excellent resource to retrain for a new career. The WIA program offered training for many different career choices. In the strangest of chances I was able to return to what I had started so long ago. The WIA program afforded me the opportunity to finish my remaining general education classes. Upon completion of these classes, I applied and was accepted into the Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program at Kankakee Community College.
Through the WIA program I have been given a second chance in life to go back and finish what I had started. Upon completing the PTA program, I will have an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science. I will be licensed to practice Physical Therapy by the state of Illinois under the supervision of a Physical Therapist. Currently I am in my second semester of the PTA program and looking forward to my first summer clinical. I have just slightly over a year left in the PTA program before I can graduate and sit for licensure.
I would strongly recommend seeking the advice and support of the WIA program if you have experienced career loss. All of the WIA staff and counselors have been extremely helpful.