by Jennifer Conlin, TheWeigh
Just at the moment when Dewayne Clay – an ex-offender – felt he was getting his life back on track, an incident at work nearly derailed his future once again.
But thanks to a program run by Community Ventures (CV), an innovative, economic development initiative coordinated by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Clay, 35, is now nothing short of a success story. The innovative, economic development initiative helps structurally unemployed individuals pursue career opportunities at Michigan companies in Detroit, Flint, Saginaw and Pontiac.
CV came to the rescue just when Clay needed it the most through a partnership with Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit.
Though Clay finally found employment in February 2014 (after a six-year job search), he quickly faced crises in both his personal and professional life. Luckily, he learned about CV’s program with Goodwill, which offers job retention counseling and success training in their Detroit office.
“I had fallen behind on my bills, primarily my rent, due to all the temporary layoffs I was experiencing,” Clay says. The assembly line at the automotive supplier where he worked would often shut down for three weeks at a time due to low demand, never allowing him to earn a regular paycheck but also restricting him from receiving unemployment benefits.
“Goodwill helped me pay my bills to get me through that period and basically that kept me from becoming homeless,” says Clay, gratefully.
Months later, in August 2014, Clay was promoted to lead iron welder, a position that felt like, “second nature” to him the minute he started the day shift. By the following October, he was asked to become lead weld technician on the night shift with a promised, and much needed, pay raise. He took the job, but by December, his raise had still not shown up on his pay stub so he confronted his plant manager and supervisor about the problem.
They both denied offering him more money, he says, and that caused him to become “angry and hot-headed,” creating a scene at work.
“I went back to Goodwill for advice on how to handle the situation,” recalls Clay.
To his credit, the situation was resolved fairly quickly. “They ended up paying me all that I was owed, including my back pay,” says Clay.
What’s more, Goodwill helped him sort out his financial life with the help of a money advisor.
“I had no credit score at all, having been in prison for six years,” he says. “Their financial advisor taught me how to build up my credit and create financial goals for myself.”
Clay proudly notes he raised his credit score by 100 points in the last year and also bought a two-family home he currently rents out. And, while he currently lives in a rented place, he is now in the process of getting a mortgage to buy a house for himself in the suburbs.
“I could not have gotten through any of this without their help,” he says. He encourages others to seek assistance to write a resume, negotiate a job problem or when facing money issues.
“People make mistakes in life, but they also learn from them and need to be given a second chance,” he says. “They truly helped me get where I am today.”
Since its launch in 2012, CV has recruited more than 100 companies that have employed more than 3,500 participants who had limited options in the past.
“Community Ventures is a testament to what we can achieve when we encourage innovation and foster collaboration among state government, business, and community-based service organizations,” says Michael A. Finney, senior advisor for economic growth for Governor Rick Snyder’s administration.
“We are removing barriers to employment, forging career pathways out of poverty, strengthening our urban centers, and creating new opportunities for all of our citizens.”
“The program works,” Finney says. “There has been tremendous demand on both the employee and employer side and we are working on new ways to grow the program and expand its reach.
– This blog originally appeared in a new publication, The WEIGH/Neighborhood News Hub. Detroit Unspun is a partner in that venture.