Southwest Solutions and the Rework America Alliance Partner to Bring Skills-Based Practices and Opportunity to Detroit Job Seekers | Markle

Southwest Solutions and the Rework America Alliance Partner to Bring Skills-Based Practices and Opportunity to Detroit Job Seekers

February 6, 2023 - Written By Markle | Blog Archive

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As job seekers struggle to adapt to the demands of a rapidly changing economy, career coaches continue to provide critical support to individuals aiming to improve or change their career path. The human connection that career coaches provide clients during some of their most vulnerable moments is essential to their success, but despite the important role career coaches play in the lives of job seekers, they often lack the tools and resources they need to help their clients.

The Rework America Alliance recognizes the value of career coaches and the worker-facer organizations they support. That’s why in June of 2022, the Rework America Alliance initiative expanded to five new cities, including Detroit, led by Southwest Solutions, an affiliate of Alliance member UnidosUS. Through this partnership, Southwest Economic Solutions gained access to tools, resources, training, and support from the Rework America Alliance. We had the opportunity to speak with Claudia Stephens, Career Center Manager at the Detroit at Work program offered by Southwest Solutions, who has seen the benefits of this partnership first-hand and shared her story with us about how these resources have helped career coaches on her team better serve their community.

The Detroit at Work center operated by Rework America Alliance partner Southwest Solutions aims to assist low-wage individuals who want a career that will help them obtain a sustainable income. It all starts with a visit to one of the organization’s talented career coaches. Claudia oversees five career coaches who collectively serve over 500 job seekers in their community annually. Career coaches help clients fill out their individual employment plan and together they explore the career paths and training options available for the client. “We don’t want to put someone in the position where they are not prepared for the role they want, so even before they start their training we offer work readiness classes,” said Claudia, “these classes offer clients the opportunity to learn basic math, reading, customer service, and other skills that will prepare them for a new career path.”

“We have something new and unique and we’re going to have the opportunity to share it with different agencies and employers. We’re going to be able to say to other organizations ‘hey, this works, and we can make changes happen for people.’ We want to be able to spread the word!”

– Claudia Stephens, Career Center Manager at the Detroit at Work program offered by Southwest Solutions

Once people have completed their work readiness classes, they can enter one of the many training programs offered – from carpentry to cybersecurity, all the trainings offer a flexible schedule that can work around people’s lives – Claudia explained, “we understand bills do not stop, and sometimes people need to have a job while they are going through a training.” After those looking for a new career have gone through training, Claudia’s team helps them prepare for interviews, find internships, and articulate their skills to employers.

Throughout the process, Southwest Solutions offers barrier resolution assistance, where the organization provides clients with resources that help them reduce barriers to employment, such as assistance with transportation or childcare. “Once we offer them support to overcome these barriers, they’re ready for training and to make a lot of life changes so they can better provide for their families,” said Claudia.

To help the career coaches at Southwest Solutions continue to hone and build their skills, Claudia and her team took one of the Rework America Alliance’s free training courses, Foundational Career Coaching Skills Training. Through the training, the team learned that even though clients may not have worked in certain fields in the past they have valuable transferable skills they’ve learned from previous jobs that can be applied in their next role. The training also helped career coaches support clients as they explain their transferable skills to employers and how these skills can be vital to their company. Claudia says, “We’ve had clients that have been caregivers or daycare center workers and when we send them to different employers, we help them realize the skills that they have to offer.” The team at Southwest Solutions also works to ensure the employers they partner with are aware of the skills their clients can bring. “We don’t just want to place someone with an employer, we want it to be a good fit,” said Claudia. “We want to make sure that not only are our clients in a comfortable spot and they know they are able to have an opportunity with this employer, but also that the employer knows this is someone that will bring value to the organization, and these are the skills that they can bring.”

Claudia notes that for her and her team, the Alliance’s Skill My Resume tool, has been a particularly useful as they build resumes for clients, especially when they work with those who have not written a resume before. She says, “We want to give our client’s the best chance to enhance their future. [Author and entrepreneur] Jason Lemkin quotes, ‘Play to your strengths. If you aren’t great at something, do more of what you’re great at’. This speaks volumes in our partnership with the Markle Foundation. We can utilize the skills-based resume tool and can empower our clients to achieve greater economic success.”

Claudia believes one of the primary benefits of the Southwest Solutions partnership with the Alliance is the creation of the Skills-Based Resume Maker and Skills-Based Interviewing workshops for job seekers. The hour-long trainings focus on teaching participants what skills-based resumes are, the contents of a resume, and what documents are important to bring to an interview. These workshops have helped clients feel empowered and keep them motivated to continue building their skills and thinking more broadly about their career path.

Claudia recalled one client who was frustrated with how things had gone with other agencies and discouraged because his dialysis technician certification had expired. But he was very enthusiastic when he learned about a skills-based resume. “I sat down with the gentleman to create a skills-based resume, and I think he felt like how I felt when I learned about this approach through the training,” explained Claudia “I thought ‘wow, if I had known this fifteen years ago, I could’ve taken the skills I already had, put it on a resume and been able to promote myself more and known that I had the skill set to be employed’… Walking this client through how a focus on his skills and background qualified him for a variety of jobs made him feel better about his prospects. “For him to see his skills on paper, I believe was life-changing for him,” Claudia added.

“Walking this client through how a focus on his skills and background qualified him for a variety of jobs made him feel better about his prospects. For him to see his skills on paper, I believe was life-changing for him.”

– Claudia Stephens

Even though Claudia is a manager, she still finds working directly with job seekers most rewarding.

“I can put myself in their position, because I was there not too long ago,” she says. “I understand exactly what they’re going through, the different frustrations and trying to get a job with a suitable income that will provide. People have always been through the same cycle with other organizations, but I want us to be that organization that stands out, by providing the human touch, and making sure that people leave with what they were looking for – whether that’s help with their resume, supportive services, or a job. We already know that with life hassles and challenges, they don’t need any more barriers, they just need help.”

The next phase of the partnership between Southwest Solutions and the Rework America Alliance will have Claudia’s organization sharing the knowledge they’ve learned through the Alliance coaching training with others through the community activation phase. This new phase will have local partners introduce others within their communities to a skills-based, human-centered, equity-driven coaching model. Through this activation, their local workforce ecosystems will effectively help more people move into better jobs. “We’re excited for the career coaching collaboration and the community activation phase because we have something new and unique and we’re going to have the opportunity to share it with different agencies and employers. We’re going to be able to say to other organizations ‘hey, this works, and we can make changes happen for people.’ We want to be able to spread the word!”

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