JFS Perspectives

Monday, March 19, 2018

SHALOM Denver’s Colorado Works Employment Services: Finding a Career Path for Joseph

After tragedy struck, Joseph Lozano, 47, suddenly found himself a single father, homeless, and unable to work. Separated from his girlfriend and son, who were living in Texas, he received a call that his girlfriend had died. He then found out his six-year-old son had witnessed her murder. He immediately went to Texas, gained custody of his child, and brought him back to Denver.

Understandably so, Joseph’s son was emotionally unstable and angry. He required additional support before he was ready to enroll in school. Joseph was therefore unable to work or look for a job. He and his young son were living in his car. He then received a substantial parking ticket that he couldn’t afford to pay, which forced him to give up his car.

About a year ago, while staying in various shelters, Joseph learned about Denver Human Services (DHS). Case managers assisted him with stabilizing his housing and child care situation, and helped him with transportation.

Joseph LozanoJoseph doesn’t have a high school diploma, and only limited job experience in janitorial, dishwashing, and food preparation. These jobs don’t pay enough and offer little opportunity to advance. Joseph’s unstable housing situation and lack of access to child care also kept him from finding sustainable employment. “It was really hard,” says Joseph. I had never been a single parent or homeless. But I stuck with it and tried to stay strong.” Through the help of DHS, he and his son moved into an apartment in October 2017.

In November, he was assessed to be ready for employment and began working with SHALOM Denver’s Colorado Works case manager Ana Figueroa-Nunez. The Colorado Works Employment Services Program is operated in partnership with DHS. This intensive job-readiness program prepares recipients of public assistance for the workforce by providing hands-on training and real work experience.

He then attended SHALOM’s Job Readiness Training in December. He also participated in a community-based training at arc Thrift Store to help him build his current work experience and references while he searched for a more permanent entry-level job.

When he came to SHALOM, Joseph was struggling to find any kind of job with his current tools.He was used to applying for jobs in person, where he often gained employment through the help of friends or family. He had never created a résumé or participated in a formal interview. Joseph had little to no experience applying for jobs online, and was searching for guidance and tools to assist him with navigating the online job-search world and making it past the initial screening process.

Joseph left training with a polished résumé and cover letter in hand, as well as a newly gained insight into his unique personality type and career interests. His confidence and preparedness for interviews grew greatly with his developed ability to highlight his skills and passions.

Ana helped him create a “Backwards Career Path,” a technique used at SHALOM Denver to map out a path to achieve a participant’s dream job. “We do research on the career, as well as personality and career interest tests to pinpoint that dream job,” explains Ana. “We then list the skills, experience, and education needed to reach the person’s goal and set up a plan from there.”

They start with a “now” job, which is often an entry-level position based on current skills and/or education to help get a foot in the door and gain experience in the participant’s chosen field. The “now” job is followed by a “next” job, which helps them gain even more experience in the field and is often more closely related to the dream job. They then move on to the “later” job, which is a position that is most closely aligned with their dream job.

With support from SHALOM employment specialists, instructors, and case managers, Joseph is pursuing a career in the food service industry, working toward a position as a lead cook or restaurant manager/owner. He has limited experience as a dishwasher in a restaurant, but wants to learn how to cook and operate restaurant equipment. He received many job offers from “survival jobs,” but continued to search for the best opportunity that could meet his family’s needs.

Joseph Lozano at Convention CenterJoseph’s patience and perseverance paid off. He found full-time employment with Center Plate Catering at the Colorado Convention Center in January as a prep cook, where he earns $14 an hour and loves his job! “At first I was nervous when I heard about the job opportunity,” admits Joseph. “I didn’t think I could be a cook, but I did some mock interviews with SHALOM, which helped my confidence. It’s a great job and my supervisors are very understanding about the situation with my son.”

He adds, “I’m having faith and things are falling into place. I bought some furniture for my apartment, got my son new clothes and glasses, and have saved money for a vehicle. My rent is paid, I have no outstanding bills, and I’m feeling so much better. Working with SHALOM Denver has been a blessing. It is one of the best programs I ever participated in and I’m so glad I did it and gave it my all. I want to encourage others to have faith and not give up. People can do and be so much more than they think!”

Ana says, “During his time working with SHALOM, Joseph inspired our staff and became a great success story the team enjoys sharing with new clients. I am continuing to work with Joseph on job retention and ensuring he stays committed to his long-term goals.” Joseph continues to give back to his community by volunteering at the arc Thrift Store during his free time.

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