Collaboration between employees and partners helps participant achieve her potential
In 2010, Kayla Mike was a teenage mother with, in her words, “No resources and no professional work experience. I didn’t even have the right professional clothes, much less know how to be in a professional workplace.”
Flash-forward to seven years later, and not only is Kayla a successful employee with a stable position at Cook Inlet Housing Authority (CIHA), she is the winner of a scholarship that specifically honors the journey she’s taken. How did it all happen?
It’s the catalyst that makes CITC’s mission possible. It’s the piece of the puzzle that connects people to their potential. And Kayla’s story is emblematic of how CITC’s partnerships work.
Kayla’s first encounter with CITC began with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which provided cash to support her childcare needs. From there, her TANF case manager, Alison Bucy, referred Kayla to the Career Ready program.
“Career Ready is designed to get TANF participants prepared for employment by providing work experience and new references that can say, ‘Yes, this person was dependable, reliable, and hard-working,’” explained Career Ready Coordinator Janice Williams. “When I met Kayla, she was young, but I felt she had a lot of drive. But she had no soft skills. She had to work on things like not being late, learning to be in a professional setting, being reliable.”
Many CITC participants face significant barriers to gaining full-time employment. Often, they don’t have family support, and for single parents, in particular, childcare is a major issue. Lack of previous employment or experience working in an office setting can also be an obstacle.
By partnering together, the TANF and Career Ready programs eliminate those barriers. In addition to providing for childcare, TANF also assists with transportation, obtaining work clothing and tools, and education and training. Meanwhile, Career Ready places participants in temporary jobs with partners who are aligned with CITC’s mission.
“We work together to try to make Career Ready successful for our participants,” Janice explained. “Partners like CIHA encourage participants to go to job fairs, they give them time for job interviews — they’re very supportive. It’s a win-win for all involved.”
Making it work
“It was more than just an internship — it was a bigger learning experience,” Kayla said of her first six months with CIHA.
As Kayla started her new job, Janice continued to work with her, suggesting tricks that would help her arrive on-time and ready each day at CIHA.
“We can give opportunities, but Kayla took those opportunities and made them work. We just helped lift her up and get the help she needed.”
– BreeAnn Davis
“I’d call her and give her ideas, like if you’re getting up late, get two alarm clocks and put one across the room so you have to get out of bed to shut it off,” Janice recalled. “Get everything ready for your kids the night before. With Career Ready, you help people understand that working isn’t just about being at the job — it’s all the things you do to prepare beforehand, too.”
By the time her six months with CIHA were over, Kayla had grown significantly and was now a seasoned, skilled employee. She completed an internship, then worked as a senior administrator with CITC. Eventually, CIHA hired her full-time as a compliance specialist. Today, Kayla does auditing for investors of CIHA properties.
“Four or six years ago, I had no idea what it would even feel like to make this much money,” Kayla shared. “But it’s more than a good salary. My work at CIHA really gave me what I lacked. That’s what Career Ready does if you take it seriously and use it as a learning opportunity.”
A steady salary, new job skills, support for her children: Kayla had achieved everything she’d set out to achieve. On May 24 of this year, she achieved something else. Kayla was the recipient of the National Indian and Native American Employment and Training Conference’s Howard Yackus Memorial Award, a scholarship that recognizes successful individuals who have been supported by a Native employment agency.
“The thing that stands out the most about Kayla is that her case has been touched and worked on by people across the entire Employment and Training Services Department,” said BreeAnn Davis, a CITC job coach who has worked with Kayla on finding employment opportunities. “It’s neat to see this accomplishment for the entire department—everyone had a hand in her success. That interdependency really speaks to our values and commitment as a team.”
CITC was able to support Kayla’s travel to Los Angeles to receive her award. BreeAnn also invited Kayla to share her story with current CITC participants.
“Kayla’s achievement is a unique chance to show other families they can achieve what they’re working toward, too,” BreeAnn explained.
Though partnerships among CITC employees and with CITC partners were crucial in helping Kayla reach her goals, BreeAnn added, Kayla herself was the key to her own success.
“We can give opportunities, but she took those opportunities and made them work. She faced really big barriers, and she addressed them all. We just helped lift her up and get the help she needed.”