A Day in the Life of JEVS Work Ready: Empowerment Through Employment

January 31, 2018

On a daily basis, the staff of JEVS Work Ready work to eliminate barriers to – and provide opportunities for – self-sufficiency. We invite you to take a look at a day with the dedicated individuals who have found their personal calling in the service of others.

8:30 a.m. on a Monday could be rough, depending on your obligations or situations in life.

But the door to Instruction Room A, on the 10th Floor at 112 N. Broad Street closes, and orientation has begun.

“At orientation, our clients learn what their obligations are,” said Aaron Gooding, Director of Employment Services for JEVS Work Ready. “And just as importantly, they learn what our obligations are to them.”

The concepts of shared responsibility and dedication weave through the three floors of the program, where clients – mandated by the county assistance office – seek connections to community work experiences that (a) build skills and (b) allow access to benefits. For case coordinators, placement counselors and administrative staff, it’s a job that never really ends and can be demanding – yet people seem to thrive on it.

Placement counselors work with clients to identify community service sites suitable for obtaining workplace experiences.

“We’ve placed twenty people so far,” reports Jemmekia Moses, Administrative Assistant, at 10:00 a.m., while staffing the “Priority Desk,” for clients who are immediately ready for worksites. “Many know where they’d like to volunteer within their own neighborhood – so there’s an element of giving back.”

Gooding notes the care exerted by each team member – from the 8:00 a.m. registrations, to the orientation, to the individual meetings that each client will have with a case coordinator – to ensure the best placement experience for both the client and the worksite partner. Each client will, in the course of the day, meet with a case coordinator, their placement counselor, and discuss their vocational goals via their individual AMR – an Agreement of Mutual Responsibility that serves as the work “contract.”

“We have about 600 worksites that partner with Work Ready in these efforts,” says Richelieu Smith, Placement Counselor, as he waits for the 10:30 round of clients to finish having their photos taken. “So we want to work with the case coordinators to ensure that the experience meets the skills and the interests of each person…and in an ideal world, the client has a great time at the worksite, the employer is happy, and it may even turn into a job.”

The team concept is strong at Work Ready, with more than five dozen members seeking to provide opportunity for Philadelphia’s citizens.

That’s how it happened for Tanisha Graham, Receptionist with the Work Ready Case Coordinators. Today, at 11:55, she’s distributing tokens, setting meetings and answering potential client calls – important, she notes, because she really understands what folks are going through.

“For me, I was tired,” she said. “Tired of sitting at home, and feeling stuck. Working here, I get to work with many different personalities, and it’s a challenge – and fun to handle each request.”

It’s that feeling of uncertainty that can be so jarring, as Work Ready clients arrive with as many different emotions and expectations as humans can have. It’s noon, and while the morning crush is over, the 10th floor still buzzes with folks trying to make moves in their lives.

“Some clients I’ve had are super enthusiastic,” said Valerie Jackson, a Placement Counselor. “They’re ready, and maybe it’s just a quick resume tune-up, and off they go. Work brings a real sense of confidence and value to people – I love to think that we’re in some small way, a part of making that happen.”

Not all clients at JEVS Work Ready are mandated. Some are exempt from requirements related to community site partners/work experience, but choose to participate anyhow – as one passing client excitedly remarked:

“I can’t wait to start tomorrow; it’s going to be good for me.”

As the afternoon moves on, and placement counselors and case navigators work through their caseloads, the atmosphere is less frenzied – but just as determined – in the two Learning Center classrooms.

Work Ready participants are able to take advantage of the Learning Center to search and apply for training opportunities and/or jobs, build resumes, and get expert advice from our teachers.

“I like it,” says a client, returning to check in with her favorite instructor, while others pore over resumes and explore job openings and training programs. “I can focus more here.”

Gooding smiles when he hears the client say that.

“That’s the thing about Monday morning,” he says. “We have no idea what people might bring in with them, so we’re sensitive to that. And while some of the job can be routine – reports and meetings – the best thing about Work Ready is when we are able to do what we came here to do. Our team helps with resumes, they work with their teammates, they make employer matches, and they answer questions. I feel like when we get the opportunity to make hope happen, that’s what makes this fun and meaningful.”

And you’d think with the tagline, that would be the end of a Day in the Life of Work Ready. Except…even after the lights are turned off, even after the elevators stop ringing…the sense of duty goes on.

Rita Sterling-Taylor, Quality Assurance File Clerk, has worked for JEVS for 33 years. Through her diligence, more than 3600 clients served were recorded last year.

“I speak with my co-worker Charmaine [Cunningham, Job Developer] every day,” said Evelyn Morales, Lead Placement Counselor. “Evenings and before work sometimes; but definitely first thing every morning, we talk – what’s the next step, what’s the game plan for introducing new employers to our JEVS clients.”

“Recently,” she concludes,” I encountered a Work Ready client, a young woman from Mexico. She spoke very little English, and felt like she wouldn’t be able to find work. She wanted employment as a Home Health Aide; we found an agency that she enrolled in, and she received her certificate in a couple of weeks. She was connected to an employer two days after receiving her certificate and was offered employment on the same day. Can you imagine? She felt like she would be kicked to the curb, and it didn’t end up that way. That’s the pleasure of this job.”

And part of the pride that we at JEVS feel.

*Thanks to the Work Ready team for sharing your stories!

Posted in JEVS Blog