Over the last few months, I’ve had the unique opportunity to witness firsthand several programs and partners that are changing people’s lives. This has reinforced my opinion that success is achieved when desire and opportunity intersect. The opportunity can come from anywhere, but in the world where I work, they usually come from multiple partners working together to support a common goal. These partners includes education, government, nonprofit organizations and businesses.
Two months ago, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and I listened to four single moms tell us their stories. Some had battled domestic violence, drug addiction, depression or homelessness. It was inspiring to see the desire to climb out of their challenging situations. Just last month, these women graduated from the Invest In You Too program, a partnership between Workforce Services, Salt Lake Community College and the medical manufacturing industry. These women, as well as several classmates, are already employed by participating medical manufacturing employers. They are creating a better life for themselves and their families.
Two weeks ago, I witnessed the first Operation Rio Grande Dignity of Work DREAM Team partnership in action. A local construction company stepped up to be the first to partner with Workforce Services and provide a work experience opportunity for a dozen individuals experiencing homelessness. The project included removing the graffiti-covered wood wall along 200 South and 500 West and replacing it with metal fencing. During the project, I overheard one participant say to another, “Don’t distract me, I’m on a job interview.” He was taking this opportunity seriously. Several of the participants worked really hard that day and were offered jobs with this construction company starting the next week.
Last week, I watched a veteran graduate from the Veteran Justice Outreach program and have his criminal record expunged. He has worked very hard to make changes in his life. With support from the judge, court system, police officers, the VA and Workforce Services, he was able to receive opportunities to correct some of the mistakes in his life. One of the most successful aspects of the whole process was his fellow veterans giving him the trust and support he missed from being in the service. His family expressed how proud they are of the hard work it took for him to become clean and employed. He will now step back into the civilian world with the opportunity to become self-reliant with employment.
With each one of these experiences, the participants in these programs had the desire to do whatever was necessary to overcome challenges and make real improvements in their lives. In addition, several partnering organizations from government, education and the business community came together to provide an opportunity for these individuals.
Even though they are now employed and taking steps to climb out of poverty, the work is not done for these individuals. They are tasting the profound dignity that comes from providing for themselves and their loved ones. But their desire and drive must continue to overcome setbacks, and they will need a strong and supportive network of family, friends and bosses behind them.
We applaud the companies in the medical manufacturing industry that are stepping up and hiring the Invest In You Too graduates. We appreciate the local construction company that became the first DREAM Team as part of the Dignity of Work phase of Operation Rio Grande. And finally, we can’t thank enough the companies that are Utah Patriot Partners and share in the commitment to hire veterans.
Still, we need more companies that have a desire to make a difference in our community and provide opportunities to mentor, train and hire these individuals the Department of Workforce Services is preparing for employment. If a business owner or industry representative reads this and wants to be one of these companies, I invite you to contact me directly.
Jon Pierpont is the executive director of the Department of Workforce Services, [email protected].