MALONE — Emilie Wilcox was struggling. She was homeless, unemployed with little education and had recently learned she was pregnant.
“After I had my daughter, I realized that I needed to start looking for ways to better myself so my daughter wouldn’t have to experience the same hardships I faced,” she said of her need to turn things around.
Wilcox, 21, learned from an employee of Catholic Charities that a regional organization, the Northern Area Health Education Center (NAHEC), had programs to assist young people with finding jobs.
“I hadn’t had any success in my previous search for employment,” she said. “It’s difficult to find employment with little education.”
With help from Michelle Oakes, the center’s career readiness coordinator, Wilcox enrolled in the Careers in the Healthcare Industry project, funded by the North Country’s Workforce Investment Board’s Youth Council.
“The idea behind the program was to assist young people who, for whatever reasons, were having a hard time entering the workforce,” said Anita Merrill, Northern Area Health Education Center director. “They haven’t made that traditional transition into the workforce.
“We identified 25 recruits and studied what may be holding them back,” she added. “We started the program to do basic career counseling, to help them learn what their options were and to point them in a direction in such fields as certified nurse’s aide and phlebotomy.”
Participants needed to meet age requirements (18 to 21) and income guidelines.
“Some had youth pregnancies or were parenting; some had no work history; and we had four who, at one point, didn’t have basic education and were working toward getting their (General Education Diplomas),”Oakes said.
The program recruited participants from Clinton, Essex, Franklin and Hamilton counties through fliers, contact with local agencies or word of mouth. In all, 28 people participated in the program.
“For the first time, I felt like I had a real chance at finding employment and a better way of life for me and my daughter,” Wilcox said.
However, after applying for the Certified Nursing Assistant program at BOCES, Wilcox learned that her reading skills were not sufficient for the program.
“I felt like I had lost another opportunity for employment,” she said.
But one thing in life that Wilcox has developed is a strong determination. With encouragement from Oakes, she took a remedial reading class at OneWorkSource. She failed the first clinical exam following the course but retook the course along with a job-skills training program that helped her succeed the second time.
“Without NAHEC, I know I would never have had the opportunity or resources to go to school,” she said. “My family and I have relied on Social Services for assistance the past several years. I am confident that will not be the case for me and my daughter.”
“Emilie was very persistent, very committed to success,” Merrill added.
Wilcox has now received the proper education certificates to continue on and is awaiting her second state-certification exam. She will then participate in a job-shadowing program along with some on-hands interviewing to help further her potential of landing a job as a certified nurses aid.
Of 28 participants enrolled, 23 are in various stages of completion, 17 have completed the training phase, and 10 are currently employed. Classroom training runs for eight to 14 weeks followed by hands-on training at area health-care facilities.
The North Country’s Workforce Investment Board’s Youth Council recently received funding from the North Country Workforce Investment Board to continue this program for a second year and for additional programming that will allow the center to work with area youth who are still in school but are struggling. The goal for working with in-school youth is to intervene before dilemmas such as those faced by Wilcox occur.
“She is going to do well,” Merrill said of Wilcox’s upcoming search for a job. “She’s worked hard, and she will succeed.”
Email Jeff Meyers: email@example.com