The talent development and employment successes of West Michigan Works! received recognition at the annual Michigan Works! Association Impact Awards. The 2023 Impact Awards ceremony was held at the Radisson Hotel Lansing at the Capitol on May 10.  

Gul Aqa Ghaznawi owned a graphic design and embroidery business in Afghanistan with the U.S. military as one of his clients. Ghaznawi and his family came to Michigan as Afghani refugees in November 2021. Shortly after arriving in West Michigan in January 2022, Bethany Christian Services’ refugee resettlement program connected Ghaznawi to the PATH program at West Michigan Works!. 

“The Partnership Accountability Training and Hope (PATH) program at West Michigan Works! serves as more than just an initiative – it’s a life-changing platform that empowers individuals,” said Jacob Maas, chief executive officer, West Michigan Works!. “Our work transcends mere job placement. We are dedicated to cultivating a brighter future for every job seeker and their families. The Impact Awards encapsulate the profound effect that individuals can have on their communities when equipped with the appropriate tools and opportunities.” 



Through the PATH program at West Michigan Works!, Ghaznawi received guidance from career coach Christine Ingabire, who connected him with resources to help overcome his employment barriers. “Gul Aqa’s ultimate hope is to open his own business again, and he shared this with confidence and excitement,” Ingabire recalled.

Upon completing English-as-a-second-language classes and driver’s training, Ghaznawi was linked with AC Sewing, Inc. and joined their team. WMW! was able to subsidize Ghaznawi’s  interpreter and on-the-job training.

Previously struggling to find qualified sewers, AC Sewing, Inc. utilized resources provided by West Michigan Works! to foster an inclusive work environment, support its diverse community, and address their talent need.

In just six months, Ghaznawi received a pay raise based on his advanced performance ratings.

“Gul Aqa has truly been the winner throughout this collaboration. It’s hard to fully articulate the challenges he faced as a refugee, but with the programs offered at West Michigan Works!, he was able to establish a long-term career and forge lifelong friendships,” said Jim Valkema, owner and president of AC Sewing, Inc.