Walking together on journey to employment and a changed life

August 26, 2015

The goal of the Workforce Development program (WFD) of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark is to help ex-offenders, welfare recipients and people with disabilities find and keep jobs. Sounds simple, but it can really be quite a journey, as the program challenges participants to change their behavior, learn to apply themselves and begin to trust. It’s a journey that can change their lives.

Over the years, WFD has developed quite a comprehensive array of services. It helps participants with employment services such as job search, resume writing, interview preparation and job placement. It also offers ESL and GED classes as well as a number of training programs: certified nursing assistant, commercial drivers license, building maintenance, food services, forklift operations, computer literacy, office technology and retail sales and customer service.

Further, WFD focuses on teaching the skills that ensure job success and longevity, such as meeting workplace expectations, learning to do the job well, dealing with workplace stressors, resolving problems, managing critique, overcoming mistakes and being patient with the job.

“Particularly for ex-offenders and welfare recipients, we’re working on behavioral modications that will ensure success,” says Hector Smith, director of WFD. “We are helping them transform, to make the transition to employment. There’s always a fear for them, because they are on a journey they’ve never been on before, but they learn to trust us. We’re on this journey together.”

Ex-offenders face particular challenges in landing employment. “With some of the acts they have committed, it’s no wonder they’ve never had a job,” said Smith. “They’ve also never had any training for a job. They’ve never sat down in a classroom to really apply themselves. We’re trying to see that happen here.”

Smith recalls a young man with a long rap sheet of offenses. He worked hard in the training courses in building maintenance and forklift operations and subsequently was hired at a Target store. One day, the young man came back to report that he was being considered for a job as a supervisor. As he told Smith of this success, he broke down and cried.

The process of applying oneself, training, landing work and succeeding in that work is life changing. “We see our people learning and growing and doing positive things,” said Smith. “We are proud to be a part of that process.”

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