Introduction to The Center for Working Families
The Center for Working Families is pleased to join the SaportaReport Thought Poverty & Equity Leadership column. We look forward to extending our partnership with John Berry / St Vincent de Paul to bring you compelling thoughts, ideas and perspectives on poverty and equity issues.
Since 2006, The Center for Working Families’ mission has been to advance economic success for hard-working families and their children. We do this through a host of workforce endeavors: soft skills training through the nationally-accredited STRIVE curriculum; sector-based trainings including Construction Ready, Certified Nurse Assistant and Microsoft Operations Specialist programs; job placement and retention services; individual coaching / case management; financial literacy education; and, supportive services referrals to a network of more than 30 providers across the metropolitan Atlanta area.
We believe it is our role, responsibility and privilege to help to reduce poverty in our city by giving underserved communities tangible avenues to fulfill their desire to work, support their families and be contributing members of society. This is what all of us want, though for some the roadmap isn’t as clear to actually get there. Our goal is to light the way and support our participants throughout their journeys.
This work is not easy, as you will see in future columns. The cheerful hope that participants bring when they walk through our doors is often in direct competition with lingering fatigue from carrying too heavy a load. There are multiple barriers to realizing economic success that residents encounter daily; some systemic and some unwittingly erected for themselves. Our job is to remove or reduce these challenges to move people towards their better.
I recently met Doris, a woman going through one of our training programs specifically designed to connect neighborhood residents to jobs at the new Mercedes Benz Stadium. It was a multi-pronged process that involved not just soft skills and customer service training, but also technology training on how to participate in an online interview. Like her, a number of trainees were older, with limited or no formal experience and were admittedly nervous. If I weren’t already aware of the digital divide, one glance of our computer lab on interview day brought it to life. My assumptions that smartphones make everyone proficient in technology were dead wrong. Pressing an app is one thing, attaching a resume is a completely different ball game, and recording timed answers via webcam to pre-recorded questions from Arthur Blank and Devonta Freeman is another galaxy.
Doris conquered her fear, leaned on her Pathway Coach and knocked the virtual interview out of the stadium. As I congratulated her on getting to the next stage – the in-person interview, scheduled for weeks later – she began to cry and said, “No one ever really gave me a chance or believed that I could accomplish something. All of you made me feel like I could, and I did it.” I guarantee you that she will be the best Event Services Host ever.
For the thousands of Atlantans who will descend on Mercedes-Benz Stadium on the 26th and throughout the season, remember that each host, server, cashier, ticket-scanner, parking lot attendant, maintenance and security worker you encounter represents a family that is working towards a goal. This is true for everyone we serve at The Center for Working Families.
I invite you to get involved and learn more about our deeply transformative work.
Che D. Watkins
President and CEO