Ryan’s Story: A New Job, A Second Chance

Ryan first heard about EMERGE through his halfway house. He was on work release – which means he was given 2 months to find work. Two weeks before the deadline, he found out about EMERGE and went to an Info Session.

The day after he first met his career coach, she sent him information about a job fair at New French Bakery. At the job fair, he interviewed well and got the job! But, reliable transport was still an issue. Ryan did not have a car, and because he was assigned the second shift and needed to work in the middle of the night, he also could not take the bus. Luckily, he was able to get a ride to work through EMERGE’s van service.

Ryan says he was only scheduled 3 or 4 times a week but would get last-minute shifts. Troy, EMERGE’s lead van driver, was really flexible. He was still able to drive Ryan last minute so that he could pick up these extra shifts and work overtime.

Normally, a worker needs to be with New French Bakery for 6 months before getting a promotion, but after 3 months New French Bakery made an exception for Ryan.Out of 400 overtime hours put in company-wide for the month, 96 of those hours were Ryan. He was promoted to Shipping Manager at 15 dollars per hour.

Ryan said, “I wasn’t sure where my life was going to go. I didn’t know if I would get a job. I got this job and it really changed everything for me. Without EMERGE I wouldn’t be where I’m at now.

Ryan says he plans to stay with New French Bakery and continue to move up in the company.

After a long illness kept her out of the workforce, Jackie decided she needed to make a change. Because of her criminal background, she knew it would not be easy. She had completed a construction training course and earned her commercial driver’s license. Despite these credentials, she was not getting interviews.

The turning point came when Jackie got an interview at the former Momentum Enterprises, now EMERGE’s social enterprise division. She has been a trainee in our Custom Manufacturing business since June. For Jackie, this job has been transformative.

She says, “This experience has made me confident that I can do a job and work 8 hours every day. Not be late and get it done. For me, it’s a good thing. It’s the best thing so far. After being sick, getting a job and working those forty hours is a big deal. I can help support my family.”

Helping participants to become work-ready is central to our work at EMERGE. After being out of the workforce for months or years, many people are simply out of practice. They are no longer used to the routine of working a shift, being on time, and being accountable to a supervisor. Some companies entirely refuse to hire workers who do not have recent work experience. Now, EMERGE is positioned to help people prepare for private-sector jobs by building 6 – 12 months of work history in one of our enterprises.

Janet Ludden, EMERGE’s new Executive Vice President (formerly President of Momentum Enterprises), says, “People can come off the street and walk into EMERGE and get a job. There is a whole array of options leading to permanent employment. If they are not ready for full-time permanent employment, they can be hired through our social enterprises. The biggest benefit of the merger is helping more people facing significant barriers turn their lives around.”

Lydia lost her job and then her home. She was pregnant and concerned about the future of her baby. She applied for public assistance, but she knew that she needed to improve herself. Then, Lydia learned about EMERGE and she became part of a pilot program we’ve led over the past year.

The program was designed to pilot new ways to work with MFIP (Minnesota Family Investment Program) recipients. We’ve encouraged people to think beyond a low-wage job. Instead, each participant is encouraged to pursue training for a career pathway with higher earning potential. EMERGE coaches help remove barriers, so participants can focus on school. Once EMERGE helped Lydia secure stable housing, she was ready to dive into a five-month Community Health Worker program.

But getting started was not without challenges. School wasn’t easy, especially with a new baby. “I just passed my GED by the skin of my nose, so it was a challenge to get through this.” With support and encouragement from her coach, Lydia not only completed the training, but she also excelled at it, receiving all A’s and B’s in her classes.

Over the past year, we’ve shown that when MFIP participants have access to training funds, a career coach, and assistance to overcome barriers like housing and transportation, they can pursue new goals and reach new heights. Lydia is just one of them. So far, 53 other participants are either enrolled in a training program or have completed one. In fact, for those who have completed training and are employed, the average wage is nearly $13 an hour, well above the projected project goal.

Not all eligible participants have seized the opportunity as Lydia did. For some people, it’s difficult to see beyond the immediate desire to be employed, as opposed to committing time and effort to training. But Lydia is glad she did. “I think the program was just amazing. I’m a new person today.”

Upon completing her certificate, Lydia got a job with EMERGE partner Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ). While at NAZ, she built relationships with North Minneapolis families, to help them find ways to become more successful, too. She has since left NAZ to focus on her education. She’s identified a passion for public speaking and is pursuing her associate’s degree in Communications. Lydia is ready for what her future holds. “I know I wouldn’t have been able to achieve this without the program.”

For 7 years, Denise was a full-time grandmother while her daughter held a job outside of the home. But this summer, Denise’s daughter decided she wanted to quit her job to stay home with the children. Denise panicked, knowing she would have to find paid work.

Who wants to hire an almost 50-year-old person? I was scared, frustrated, depressed, mad, feeling useless. For a week I cried, cried, cried.”

Denise’s son Alex* was an EMERGE participant at the time. He told Denise to contact EMERGE, too. She wasn’t sure.

“I thought, oh, he’s young. They help the young people, they don’t help the old.”

Soon after, Denise stopped by EMERGE and met Mike West, EMERGE’s Career Coach. He helped Denise fill out several job applications. A few days later, she had a job offer from a transportation company – and before the start date, she had time to complete the New Beginnings Career Workshop.

Denise’s outlook on life has completely changed, “I don’t have to look at my age because I’m qualified to do whatever I decide to do.” When asked what advice she would pass on to others considering EMERGE, Denise shared: “You can work and you can provide for your own self and you can provide for your family. . . Don’t give up. Trust that you can do what you need to do. You can be where you want to be at in life. Your life matters – you can do it.

Growing up, Deandre struggled in school. Due to family issues, his mom moved the family frequently, making it hard to keep up. He also suffered from test anxiety and says, “I didn’t think I would go far. I told myself I wasn’t smart enough.”

During the summer after his junior year of high school, Deandre had to attend summer school to catch up. That was when he realized he needed to make a change. He put in extra effort to make up for lost time: “I went to summer school every day. I took extra classes.”

Deandre was able to graduate high school on time, but he didn’t know what to do next. He practiced basketball every day but did not have direction or a career goal. Before joining North 4, he was unemployed and not attending school.

EMERGE North 4 Coordinator, Ron Williams, worked hard to recruit Deandre. Deandre says, “At first I was avoiding him, but I finally came to EMERGE. Ron is like my uncle now. He helped me focus on a task before moving on, he helped me be a better listener. I was surprised by how much he really cared.” During North 4, Deandre had an internship in construction. He was also chosen as a BUILD Leader and served the community as a role model & teaching an anti-violence curriculum to elementary-aged children. He says, “My brothers look up to me now. Even my older brothers!”

With renewed confidence, Deandre recently made the decision to attend college. With EMERGE’s help, Deandre applied to and was accepted at Minnesota West Community & Technical College in Worthington, Minnesota. He will attend this fall and was chosen to play basketball on the college team. Deandre doesn’t know what the future holds, but says, “Now I know I am smart enough.”

K’Sean was homeless and struggling when he came to EMERGE. When he first walked through our doors, he didn’t know what to expect. “I thought it would be like any other workforce center, I would fill out forms. I didn’t expect to meet all these great people. At EMERGE, they dedicate themselves personally to help you achieve. For a lot of people, it’s just a job, but here at EMERGE you really become a family and a community.”

K’Sean now has goals and was able to use resources through the North 4 program to work towards them. “I wanted to find a career. And that’s what they helped me do at EMERGE. With North 4, we went on college tours and did mock interviews.”

K’Sean was placed at Redeemer Center for Life for his North 4 internship. He flourished there, and they helped him find stable housing. Since completing North 4, K’Sean was able to continue working with EMERGE. He now has a steady temp job at Highlight Printing through EmergeWORKS.

“I’ve learned a lot of things. I’m planning to follow a career in this. I can grow into it.” K’Sean has the potential to be hired on and says, “So far, they are very welcoming. My supervisor, Lisa, has been helpful and helped accommodate me so I can get this experience.”

K’Sean has made a huge shift in his life and goals. “I’m still new to all this. I’m learning I don’t need to be afraid of change. I’m still learning how to react to everything changing so fast. These new changes are a lot of positive things. I am a new mefrom the person who I was to the person I am becoming.

Joe is a survivor and refugee of hurricane Katrina. Since relocating to Minnesota, he has hopped from part-time job to part-time job, working hard to make ends meet. At times, he has been homeless. Despite forklift training and carpentry skills, his criminal background made it difficult to get a sustainable job with opportunities to advance. Then, he learned about Second Chance, a division of EMERGE Enterprises.

Second Chance Recycling and Second Chance Manufacturing employ trainees for six months to a year, giving them a chance to build their work experience and skills while earning money and searching for private sector employment. During his interview to work with Second Chance Manufacturing, Joe says, “I was so nervous. I thought, ‘these people are so nice, what is the catch?’ They showed me consistent respect.

During his time with Second Chance, he worked deconstructing mattresses and assembling cash register trays. Sometimes, he was able to double or triple the quota. He says, “I felt pride in my work. I could look at it and say, ‘I did that!’” Joe was also able to meet with EMERGE coaches for empowerment training and computer skills training.

After almost a year at Second Chance, Joe has earned a new job with assistance from EMERGE’s staffing service, EmergeWORKS. He is putting past maintenance and irrigation experience to work at NEON Property Maintenance. As just the second of two employees, he is also learning new skills and is responsible for aspects of advertising, business management, and accounting. Joe is excited about where the opportunity will lead him: “I’ve learned more about business – you never stop learning! It is a blessing to now have the money to look out for my mom and my niece and nephew.

Karis AMC and Movement Mortgage bestow gift to EMERGE and Simpson Housing Services to bridge the financial gap for under-served communities.

After the murder of George Floyd, we saw an immediate need to provide food when the local grocery stores closed. The young men participating in the North 4 program run the events, connect with the community, and spread safety resources. The events are weekly, Tuesday – Thursday from 10 am – 2 pm.