More than just a job: Employment Services programs transform lives of clients

Published on October 04, 2018

The handful of business cards means everything to Kelly Hawk.

They list her position as an administrative assistant at IFC and Insurance Marketing Inc. - a position that even a year ago seemed out of reach to the single mom.

Hawk had been out of work for more than five years on medical exemption after experiencing numerous health problems that led to a grand mal seizure. In a matter of weeks, she lost her doctors and her exemption; an accident took away her vehicle and her ability to get her son to school; and when her landlord gave her 60 days notice, she became homeless for nearly three months.

It wasn’t until two staff members with Placer County’s Employment Services team showed up that she began to envision a different future: One with financial stability and a promising career.

CalWORKs support allowed her to repair her vehicle. They also offered her a paid position in the Work Experience Program, also known as WEX. WEX places CalWORKs recipients on paid and unpaid job assignments with public, private and nonprofit agencies at no cost to employers for up to a year.

She quickly rebuilt job skills that had suffered after years of workplace and domestic abuse and health challenges, everything from interviewing to computer classes, and met with her case manager to set goals that would allow her to reenter the workforce while balancing care for her son, her health concerns and other needs. She also received help finding housing.

“I had the support of everyone in that office, encouraging me and helping me move forward in and realize my potential,” Hawk said.

In what now seems like a moment of synchronicity, IFC found a stray business card from Employment Services and decided to give the county a call. They were in need of an assistant to deal with mounting workload, and hadn’t had much success finding candidates in the past.

They worked with Employment Services to come up with a list, and after interviews, Kelly ended up at the top.

“There were lots of great candidates and Kelly was a perfect fit,” said Garrett Konrad, IFC’s co-owner and partner.

The process, he said, was “easy,” from getting candidates in his email inbox for review to scheduling interviews. “I'm sure that there's others in the program that would be a great fit for other employers.”

Hawk is loving her new role and carries her business cards around like a badge of honor, having discovered a newfound passion for networking.

“It’s looking like a very promising, long-lasting career,” she said. Her family has a home and her son is back at school. “We are thriving and doing so much better because of the program.”

Heather Davis describes herself as “broken” when she began to work with Employment Services.

This was both figurative and literal: A victim of domestic violence, Davis had been forced to leave her home and her job, taking her two children to a shelter. Her confidence had been shattered both by the experience and by some of the physical injuries she’d received, including damage to her teeth.

“I was in a really tough spot,” she said.

Getting connected with a case manager allowed her to set incremental goals. She began to take some of the “Get Hired” workshops hosted by the county and Placer School for Adults - and after working a bit through WEX, eventually landed one part-time job and then another. The Housing Support program, in partnership with local nonprofit AMI Housing, helped her find a new home, and assisted with rent for the first few months as she got back on her feet. And her case manager even helped her connect with a dental provider who was able to repair her teeth.

Now, Davis is smiling.

She spends a few days a week helping at Team Giving in Auburn, a nonprofit that connects volunteers with volunteer opportunities. Davis manages their calendar and keeps track of email lists other outreach tools. It’s the first time she’s had a desk job in years, but initial nerves have given way to a sense of satisfaction and purpose.

“I've never worked for nonprofits in my life and now I'm working for two of them. It's just a way to be able to give back,” she said.

Davis and Hawk are two of many Employment Services clients who celebrated their journeys at a recent ceremony. View pictures from the event below (click to scroll). To learn more, or connect with the Employment Services team as a potential client or employer, visit their website.

Employment Services recognition ceremony