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Returning program will help Kalamazoo’s marginalized residents keep jobs

June 19, 2024

KALAMAZOO, MI — For Kalamazoo residents in poverty or with a criminal record, finding a career can be a struggle.

From 2013 to 2019, Urban Alliance had a program to help those individuals acquire career skills. But the COVID-19 pandemic shut the program down.

Now, it’s back.

Urban Alliance’s Momentum Urban Employment Initiative offers coaching in life skills and pre-employment training, according to a news release. Programming lasts for six weeks and is taught in 12-person cohorts. The first 2024 cohort will end their six weeks on Friday, June 21.

The training isn’t tailored to a certain career path. It’s flexible and can be molded toward what career each participant wants to pursue. A unique pathway is developed to fit the needs of each participant, said Scott Goodwin, director of programing at Urban Alliance.

“Instead of being a one size fits all, it’s more of a one size fits one,” Goodwin said.

Criminal struggles, poverty and addiction issues add layers to the difficulty of keeping a job. One goal of the program is to give individuals skills to think past what’s going on in the moment and develop a plan for the future.

“So many of our folks just live in the chaos of, ‘Can I get through today?’” Goodwin said.

The program has helped people find jobs in manufacturing, construction and culinary service. Two members of this cohort are seeking jobs as truck drivers, Goodwin said. Finding a job has been “no problem” for participants, Goodwin said. Keeping it is the hard part.

“Making (a job) into a career has always been a challenge,” Goodwin said. “And so that’s where we spend most of our time.”

On Wednesday, June 19, Goodwin said the cohort is touring Bell’s Brewery to see how many careers are available in the brewing process. Beyond serving up a Two Hearted IPA, there are roles in supply-chain management, logistics and sales.

“Many times, our students don’t realize what all is available within a place,” Goodwin said.

In the years without the program, Goodwin realized how important it was.

“The biggest thing that I was reminded of was that the need is still there,” Goodwin said.

A lesson Urban Alliance is taking into the future is having flexibility so participants can mold the structure of the program to their needs. That includes what classes are taught, what partnerships are developed with businesses and when classes are.

“We have to make sure that the community always has a voice in our decisions,” Goodwin said.

The next cohort will begin on Aug. 5. Selection for that cohort begins in mid-July, Goodwin said.

Applications are available on the Urban Alliance website. A consultation can be made by calling Urban Alliance, as well. All participants must be at least 18 years old.

Read the article on MLive. 

Posted in News, Programming