James’ Story: Employment Services Collaborative

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When James was younger, his mom worked several jobs to support the family, leaving James to juggle the demands of school and the care of his younger siblings. After high school he worked as a home health aide. While it was far from his dream job, James worked hard, volunteering for extra shifts, filling in for coworkers, taking on extra duties – largely so he could support his siblings. But James also had bigger dreams.

Those dreams brought him to Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids, which leads the United Way-funded Employment Services Collaborative. The goal of the collaborative is to help those facing barriers to employment find a career in which they can grow and thrive. To better serve people like James, the collaborative brings together eight Kent County agencies to provide job skills training, interview coaching, and help with job placement. The partnership of these agencies helps them avoid unnecessary duplication and ensures that, no matter which agency a client approaches first, they will ultimately be referred to the program that’s right for them. Their motto is, “no wrong door.”

With a scholarship from the collaborative and advice from a career coach, James started a Certified Nursing Aide program. He dove into the 115-hour program full-time. With his adaptability, caring nature, and positive attitude, James excelled, going on to pass his state exam. Today he works as a full-time CNA at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans where he earns enough to help support his younger siblings.

James said recently that he is “so grateful for the support and encouragement” he received from the staff at Goodwill. Feeling energized by his work as a CNA, James has now decided to continue his education by enrolling in a Licensed Practical Nursing program this fall. His ultimate goal: to one day don the maize and blue as a full-fledged Registered Nurse at University of Michigan Health.

To learn more about the Financial Security programs funded by Heart of West Michigan United, visit our Agency Partners page. There you can see a full list of United Way partner agencies and download handy two-page Impact overviews for each issue area.