24 Mar Someone in Her Corner
With significant obstacles in her way, Amelia Reed wasn’t sure she could land a job. Then her dream opportunity came along.
It’s not unusual for a job applicant to feel nervous going into a big interview. But last August, as Amelia Reed prepared for her interview at Cook Inlet Housing Authority (CIHA), she had more reason than most to feel anxious.
“I have a really bad criminal background,” she explained. “I struggled with drug addiction before, so I was having trouble finding work due to that.”
Working with CIHA as an administrative assistant was a dream job for Amelia. But she feared that because of her previous incarceration, that dream would never be realized.
At CITC, though, we invite people to “Come As You Are.” Here, it doesn’t matter if you’ve served time in prison or if you’ve struggled with addiction: There’s no judgement.
When Amelia was referred to CITC’s Career Ready program, which pays for individuals to be placed within CITC or with other businesses to gain on-the-job training, Subsidized Work Experience (SWE) Coordinator Tusi Mareko knew she would need to find the right fit for Amelia.
“We have to find employers who will accept someone with a criminal history,” she explained.
If an SWE worker is employed on-site at CITC, they must pass a background check. But when Tusi found a position at CIHA that fit Amelia’s goals, she was able to waive the background check. After speaking to a representative from CIHA to confirm that Amelia’s incarceration occurred over seven years ago, Tusi successfully scheduled an interview for her.
“CIHA is always asking, ‘Do you have more Career Ready employees available?’” she shared. “There are lots of incentives for employers to hire a Career Ready participant.”
Through the Career Ready and SWE programs, employers hire workers who can be trained on the job. In return, CITC reimburses them for 80 hours of salary each pay period, plus employer-paid taxes. Employers also receive $2,000—a sort of “signing bonus” for taking a chance on a Career Ready employee.
A Foot in the Door
The CIHA interview came just in time: Amelia was juggling two part-time jobs with being a full-time mother. She was relying on Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) to fill the gaps—but thanks to a penalty she received for having a second unemployed adult in the house (her husband), her TANF was cut off for 30 days.
Her caseworker moved her to General Assistance. But that wasn’t a permanent fix.
“Career Ready offers temporary positions for up to six months and can be a foot in the door at a company,” explained Tusi. “It’s often a path to a permanent job because the company gets to see an individual’s potential first-hand. As soon as Amelia heard this, she expressed interest in working with CIHA to get closer to her dream job.”
Through CITC’s supportive services, Amelia received funds to cover driving test costs to receive her driver’s license—another step toward independence. She also found assistance with childcare, rent, and her electric bill as she worked toward permanent employment.
“Career Ready was my baby step into starting my career,” Amelia explained.
Tusi prepped Amelia for her interview by staging a mock interview for her. She also asked Amelia to research CIHA’s website and learn more about the organization to prepare for questions she might be asked.
“Tusi and my caseworkers, Nancy and Berni—all of them were really rooting for me and encouraging me to do it,” Amelia recalled. “It was so awesome to have that support, not only from home, but from people who were trying to help.”
Amelia nailed the interview.
“I’ve had multiple interviews before with companies that say they won’t hold my background against me—but then they end up going with someone else,” she admitted. “So I was completely shocked when I got a call from Tusi that CIHA wanted to hire me.”
A Sense of Stability
After 30 days of Career Ready employment at CIHA, Amelia saw an opportunity to apply for a permanent position. Her new full-time CIHA job came with a $5 pay raise.
Today, Amelia has been with CIHA for nearly six months. She is now an eligibility specialist there—and she loves her job.
“There are so many opportunities here,” she said. “When I was with Career Ready, my mindset was: I need to show them what I can do, so maybe I can get a full-time position. In addition to everyone involved in helping me, it was important for me to do the best I could and not be afraid to jump to the next step.
“The feeling is unexplainable,” she added about being employed. “It’s such a sense of relief because you know that, financially, you’ll be able to take care of your family. Ever since I started this job, that’s how I feel every day.”