Children and families of Iowa’s Connect 2 Careers hopes to aid young adults in the Perry and surrounding areas to overcome barriers that are getting in the way of being successful in the workplace.
Located in the conference room in the Chamber of Commerce building, Stephanie Brewer, who is fluent in Spanish, mans the office on Wednesdays, and April Wyett is there on Fridays.
July 1, 2016 marked a change in the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) and with that change and by working under the guidelines of the U.S. Department of Labor, the Youth Work Readiness Program changed its name to Connect 2 Careers, but the biggest change is in the focus of the program to serving older youth.
The primary focus shifted to out of school youth up to age 24. They are looking to serve individuals from 16-24 years old, who are out of school. Either they have dropped out of school and need to re-engage, or to get their HiSET (high school equivalency) through DMACC.
The program highlights three areas:
Getting the individual back in school and getting their diploma, or HiSET; continuing with their education through DMACC, other community college, or vocational training as necessary.
Building work readiness skills so that when they are finished with high school or have gotten their HiSET they are ready to go out into the workforce and be successful.
Independent living skills; working with individuals to become self-sufficient and able to live on their own.
Job coaches, Wyett and Brewer meet one on one with individuals to assess their strengths, needs, potential barriers and interests. Together they develop a plan to help the individual get the education, experience and personal confidence to be prepared to enter the workforce.
The program is geared toward young people who have barriers to achieving their goals, whether they need help with professional certifications, childcare, transportation, or they have a criminal background. They can learn how to talk to a potential employer about that. There can be many obstacles preventing the individual from being successful.
The program puts the responsibility of getting ready to join the workforce on the young adults they serve. Brewer and Wyett help young adults set the steps they need to take on their individual path, it is up to the individual to follow through with the necessary steps on their path to accomplish their goals to become successful.
The program assists with certifications, apprenticeships, and networking with local businesses and organizations.
Many times, the individuals know what they are interested in, but don’t know who to call or how to get started in the right direction. They often end up working low paying jobs that don’t interest them, or worse, doing nothing at all.
C2C emphasizes careers in healthcare, retail, financial services, manufacturing and trades and transportation. These are typically jobs that pay well and are readily available to qualified applicants. The hope is that the young people will see that there is more available within the community than what appears at face value. They can have a career without necessarily having to attend a four-year college.
Another aspect of the program is to help young people interested in higher education or vocational training. They help the kids apply to schools, fill out FASFA forms and break down those barriers so they feel more confident and in control of the direction in which they are going.
There are some funds available, depending on circumstance, from the program itself, based on individual cases. The program aids in the purchase of tools and equipment needed to pursue a career whether it be steel-toed boots for construction or knives for a culinary student.
What sets Connect 2 Careers Apart
A very unique aspect of the program is the flexibility to take into consideration each individual’s circumstance and to tailor the WEP (Work Experience Program) to the young person’s needs. Additionally, the individual wages are paid through Children and Families of Iowa WEP program placement.
What sets C2C apart from other programs is the employer involvement. By connecting with local employers, who can give work experience opportunities to these young people and who are willing to give them a chance, the youth can build his or her confidence and knowledge of what the particular job or career field while the employer gets the opportunity to see the youth work well and the barrier is then erased.
For example, if an individual has a criminal background and the individual is interested in getting a job in construction but fears that their background might stand in the way. Without aid from C2C, the application process might present obstacles.
With help through C2C the employer gets to meet and work with the young person to see if they are a good fit before committing to actually employing them. They can see the young person has the skill set, and the determination to be successful. In return, the young person gets real world work experience which helps them overcome any fears they may have.
Wyett shared a story of one young lady from Perry.
“There was a young lady who was interested in becoming a para educator,” Wyett said. “Through working with the school, we were able to secure a position for the young lady. She will get the opportunity to work in the classroom and kind of ‘try on’ the job and gain confidence and understanding of what the job is to be sure it’s a good fit for her. If the young lady decides that she would like to pursue para educator as a career the program will then assist her getting the training and certifications she needs to be successful.”
Wyett added, “Perry is a great town. I’m really excited to be here and I know there is a lot of opportunity, not only for us but for the young people we can help.”
Program coordinators rely on referrals
The program relies on word of mouth and referrals from other agencies, schools, juvenile court officers and aftercare programs to connect with young adults who may be interested in working with them. The program is purely voluntary so that participating individuals are self-motivated to achieve goals and become successful.
If you would like to make a referral, or are a young adult, or you are an employer with a desire to learn more about the programs offered, you can stop by the office any Wednesday or Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or contacting Wyett at (515)971-0199 or Brewer (515)975-5783.
Local businesses or individuals who would like to participate, but cannot offer placement for young people may provide support through charitable donations. Donations for CFI programming can be made by contacting the Foundation for Children & Families of Iowa directly at 515-697-7972 or give through the website at www.cfiowa.org.