KC’S Workforce Equity Initiative opens new opportunities for students

Kaskaskia College’s Workforce Equity Initiative (WEI) continues to help minority students excel and complete their certificates in ten different programs with the Serving with An Equity Lens (SEALs) program.

To date, the program has benefited over 50 students, with eleven students have already completed the program and gained employment. Twenty-one students completed their certificate programs at the end of the fall semester. The college has been awarded $599,539 to continue the grant for a second year and plans on adding three additional certificate options, including culinary, emergency medical technician (EMT), and industrial technology.

The SEALs program provides African Americans and other minorities living in the KC district with the resources they need to compete in today’s world, all completely free.

“WEI gave me an opportunity, a chance for something,” said SEALs participant Christopher Boyd. “It is truly amazing! Honestly, I would have been happy making anywhere between $20 to $25 an hour as a professional truck driver, but starting here at Martin Brower as a yard jockey, I’m already making $23 an hour and I work over 40 hours a week.

“This place has great insurance and in six months I’ll get to graduate to an actual driver and then my pay will greatly increase. I make in one week more than what I did in a two-week period working for Walmart. Acquiring my CDL really has changed my life and I am truly grateful and blessed for what has come my way.”

In August 2021, Boyd completed his truck driving certificate (CDL) and started working
with Martin-Brower in Lebanon shortly after.

The program is designed to help students get trained and job-ready in less than a year with benefits such as:

 FREE tuition, books, and course fees.
 FREE childcare and transportation for those who need it.

 FREE advising and job placement support.
 FREE academic and training assistance.
 FREE training in critical “soft” skills valued by employers, plus a stipend for every student who successfully completes the training.

In addition to the three newly added certificate programs, students can choose to participate in the following KC programs: welding, carpentry, network security administration, automotive technology, certified nursing assisting (CNA), truck driving training, and heating/venting and air conditioning (HVAC).

A goal of the WEI program is to place students in full-time jobs to earn at least 30 percent above the regional living wage or be on a pathway to a family-sustaining wage. The overall goal is to accelerate the time for the participating minority population to enter and succeed in postsecondary education/training programs that lead to employment in high-skilled, high- wage, and in-demand occupations.

“Sometimes the environment doesn’t allow us to reach out to or to know what resources are available or we don’t know how to reach out for the opportunity, said SEALs participant Dwayne Dardon. “We feel discouragement from past experiences with people who say they are trying to help us.”

In August 2021, Dardon completed his truck driving certificate (CDL) and
started working with a local trucking company in September.

“I wouldn’t be here without this grant right now,” said SEALs participant Jessie Jackson. “It helped me get into college and pursue my interest in automotive, plus gain experience while I’m finishing my classes.”

KC also offers participants several wrap-around services to increase their success in the program including an advisor/coach who will walk students through all steps of attending college from enrolling to graduating. Free tutoring is always available to any student experiencing difficulty in a course, plus the college offers KC students free access to Talkspace.

This online therapy service connects users to a dedicated, licensed therapist via text messaging or live video.

For more information or questions, please contact WEI Recruiter, Bunny Garrett at 618-545-3122 or WEI Coach/Advisor Charlee George at 618-545-3132.

–Submitted by Kaskaskia College

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