Richard is driven to provide for his family. In early 2022 he was struggling to support them while working as a warehouse associate making $17.50 an hour. A decade prior Richard had attended college for a sociology degree, but his lack of career training and his involvement with Ohio corrections created a daunting barrier to gainful employment.

Given these challenges, Richard sought help through the West Michigan Works! Holland Service Center in Ottawa County. He connected with Bessie Childs; a career coach who could provide Richard with the tools necessary for success. Together, Childs and Richard followed the career coaching model and created a professional career portfolio to start him on the right track.

A New Career Option

Richard landed on this career choice, a commercial truck driver, after working extensively with Childs. They learned that a CDL-A certificate is not eligible for a Pell Grant, leaving Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funding as Richard’s only option financially. WIOA is the nation’s primary source of providing former inmates with the job skills and assistance necessary to return to work.

Childs appreciated Richard’s positive attitude. “He understood the significance of the gift that the WIOA program is to a person with a justice-involved background,” she said. “He dug in and put the work into it and in no time completed the career coaching process and entered CDL-A training.”

With his certificate in the works, Richard was on his way to reaching his career goal thanks to mileage reimbursement and other barrier removal funding provided by WIOA.

Overcoming Hardship

Finally, by November 2022 Richard had completed his training. He secured a CDL-A certificate which would support him far better than his position as a warehouse associate.

“The training was important to me because I fell on hard times and needed an occupation that had low barriers for entry, paid well and was in high demand nationwide,” Richard said. “It’s also part of a bigger dream of mine to start a logistics company for people who need a second chance at life like I did.”

Richard began new employment a month later as a truck driver with USA Truck, Inc., eventually earning $40 an hour with full insurance benefits. Richard is now able to support himself and his family, moving beyond his justice-involved history and creating a new life for himself.

“What I liked the most about working with West Michigan Works! was the one-on-one personalized coaching,” Richard shared. “Bessie Childs held me accountable through every step of the process. She also made resources available to me even after I secured employment.”

“He worked hard at taking steps toward restoration or redemption,” Childs said. “He is a model citizen, and a humble man.”