The greatest impact always comes when people work together to achieve a common goal.
The Women's Employment Network has always valued collaboration whether with local companies and employers or with other Kansas City agencies serving those in need. Partnerships help us learn from each other and eliminate redundancy. WEN is excited to announce two new partnerships that will allow us to help even more Kansas City women.WEN Joins with LISC to become Kansas City's second Financial Opportunity CenterThis month the Greater Kansas City Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), the nation's largest community development organization, announced that they selected the Women's Employment Network as their second Kansas City Financial Opportunity Center.WEN added Financial Coaching to our services in March 2013, and this new partnership gives us access to the methodology and resources developed by LISC as part of their Financial Opportunity Model. This model has a proven history of success and helps to ensure that WEN's Financial Coaching program will be effective. The LISC model provides services across three areas: employment placement and career improvement; financial education and coaching; and public benefits access. These core services are integrated and provided to clients in a bundled fashion in an effort to reinforce one another and to provide a comprehensive approach to income and wealth building.LISC's service model complements WEN's employment training program and services, and this partnership will make it possible for WEN to help women find economic stability.100 Jobs for 100 Moms InitiativeWomen's Employment recently became involved with two local agencies, Operation Breakthrough and Amethyst Place, on an initiative that aims to find jobs for Kansas City mothers. Given that stable employment and income are essential to the wellbeing of families, the 100 Jobs for 100 Moms initiative aims to match a mother trapped in generational poverty with a business willing to provide a job and on-the-job mentoring.While these agencies serve many women in need of work, employment preparation and job search assistance are new ventures for Operation Breakthrough and Amethyst Place. By working with WEN they gain perspective on how guide women through the employment process. In addition, this initiative will work closely with area business partners who help provide a specialized work experience for moms who face a myriad of obstacles when pursuing traditional employment avenues. Lasting employment that leads to economic stability will allow local families to live much better lives, and WEN is proud work collaboratively to make this a reality.
Without a job, it's hard to make ends meet. Not surprisingly, after sustained unemployment, many of the women who come to Women's Employment Network for help finding work also need help managing their finances and overcoming debt. Below is the story of one woman who WEN helped grow both professionally and financially. Eva's story is a classic example of the learning process women go through at WEN with regard to their finances. When Eva first came to WEN she had stopped even opening bills. She had a $119 assistance check that was supposed to cover her utilities, but had hundreds of dollars of bills to pay. As part of WEN's Employment Preparation and Career Transition Training Program, clients participate in a budget drafting exercise that asks them to assess their monthly income and expenses, an experience that Eva remembers as being difficult: "It was painful talking about money. It was the hard truth that I didn't want to accept. I was crying and so was the woman next to me. We were holding each other."During WEN's five-week training program she learned about budgeting, saving, and responsible use of credit. Since getting a job and learning to budget, she has been able to buy things that she couldn't afford before, including a lot of things for her children. These things include: beds for the children, cooking supplies, and school pictures. She admits, "it sounds like little stuff, but when you don't have it you really notice. It's big." Her experience is not atypical of the women who come to Women's Employment Network for assistance. Seventy-five percent of WEN clients report income below the federal poverty line, with the other 25% not disclosing their income at intake. Of those who, starting in March 2013, have opted to work with WEN's Financial Coach, the average credit score is 539 and the average amount of debt in collection is $12,000. Without sufficient savings and with such poor credit, WEN clients are especially vulnerable to predatory lending such as payday loans, which feed into the cycle of poverty.The Financial Coaching and Credit Building program was added to Women's Employment Network's program model in early 2013 to help WEN clients, graduates, women small business owners, and others in the community in build their credit and achieve their financial goals, so that their career gains are translated into increased wealth. WEN's Financial Coach is responsible for the management of the program, which involves ongoing one-on-one financial coaching, community outreach workshops, assistance with credit disputes and settlements, and rebuilding credit with a secured credit card.The Financial Coaching and Credit Building Program is a thrilling addition to WEN's services and will undoubtedly help WEN's clients regain control of their financial futures.
Each woman who complete's Women's Employment Network's 5-week training program concludes the classroom portion of their employment journey by writing a reflection on what the course meant to them. Please enjoy one of these essays from a recent graduate:When I initially went to the Women’s Employment Network, it was just to help me get a job. That was it. Now, just five weeks later, I realize there were so many more obstacles than just “getting a job” that has been keeping me from finding “the job”, “the career”, “the happy and professional life I have been waiting for”. From the Women’s Employment Network I have had the opportunity to get to know myself for who I actually am and can be, thus having increased confidence and more positive energy in my personal and professional life.I began my professional life as a teen mother. Although, I was determined that my being a teen mother would not get in the way of building a stable professional life for myself, I did not realize how many obstacles would arise. I found myself a single mother of two children with special needs. Even though I have continued to always fight to get myself on the right career path for my family, I’ve never found the right path that works for our needs. I tried going to college, hoping that would get me on the right track, and did quite well until times got tough in my family life and I needed to quit. I have fought against the grain for fifteen years and basically gave up hope. The Women’s Employment Network has shown me that I don’t have to fight against the grain and that I don’t have to give up hope.An admirable aspect of the Women’s Employment Network is that while they are educating and nurturing the authentic you, they are also providing so many employment resources and tools. You will not leave the Women’s Employment Network lacking any tool you may need in your job search or beyond. I entered into the program without a real focus on what my plan was professionally. I am graduating the program with a better focus on what my individual plan is to search for a job that works for my needs and interests. I now have the confidence, proper attire and tools, strong support, and a great jumpstart to keep me on this new positive path that I have found through the Women’s Employment Network.Thank you so much WEN for giving me the opportunity to grow.
The women who participate in Women's Employment Network's programs leave WEN with either a job or an action plan for employment. However, WEN is a transformative experience for their families too. Here are some snapshots of the families WEN helps.
One Woman's StorySandra, a stay-at-home mother of four, came to WEN looking for help transitioning back into the workforce after spending several years taking care of her young children. She knew she was ready to work again, but was worried about how she could continue to manage the household, run errands and help her kids with homework once she was employed. The Personal Development Workshop "Goal Setting & Time Management" gave her a solution that involved the whole family. During her job search, she made a list of all the tasks that needed to be done and got her children involved in housework, which opened up more time for her to apply to jobs. Sandra reflects, "I had to make them help me, but they're old enough to do that, and it let me accomplish more." Now Sandra has a full-time job at a print shop, walking-distance from her home, which allows her to make the most of her time and balance her work and home lives. She's pleased that her children still help by doing their chores.
Recognizing Mom's AchievementsAt WEN's most recent class graduation ceremony, five of the nine women graduating had children in the audience, ranging in ages from infancy to teen. The presence of children made the day all the more poignant; reminding everyone in attendance just how important finding a job is to those with little ones who depend on them. The children listened patiently as Director of Program Services, Lynnette Williams, recognized the efforts of each of the women and presented them with a certificate of completion. Two of the children had drawn a special picture for their mother, and gave it to her as she received her certificate.
The women who graduate from WEN and find work are better able to give their families the resources and support they need to thrive, and even more importantly they become role models to their children and communities.
Women come to the Women's Employment Network to recreate themselves professionally and forge a new path to success through sustained employment. By the time many of our women arrive, they have been out of work for an extended time, their resources are dwindling, and they have lost their sense of self-worth and they are questioning their skills and value in today's job market.
The women who come to WEN for our five-week training program benefit from a structured job-search training program, individualized coaching, case management and WEN's professional clothing bank. But there's another component of the training program that cannot be forgotten: the tremendous support the women receive from the others in their class. At the graduation ceremony for Class #252 on December 14, 2012, the women thanked not only staff, but each other, for being there for them through the program.
Even after finding employment, WEN graduates still find ways to support one another, going as far as to hire other graduates. In 2012, three WEN graduates Paige (2010 grad), Mickey (2012 grad) and Kristie (2008 grad), who are now hiring managers at their companies, remembered WEN as a resource for qualified candidates. Between the three of them, they hired eight women from the program as employees. Mickey even hired women from her own training class!
As the 12 women of Class #252 begin the job application process in earnest, they do so knowing that they have the support of a vast network of women who have walked in their shoes. In the words of one of these graduates, Gale, as she accepted her diploma and thanked the class for being there for her, "I was lost but now I'm found."
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Grant Writer/Development Coordinator