Providence, RI — After weighing the pros and cons, Katiria Perez and her husband, Francisco Javier Perez Criado, decided that she would stay home after their second son was born. Like many young couples with growing families, the financial impact of child care costs meant that Katiria’s income would not cover the expenses associated with her returning to work. It made more financial sense for Katiria to stay home with her kids.
“My husband just said, ‘we’ll figure it out,’” said Perez. “We did, but it was really, really tough.”
Francisco is a barber with the Urban Fellow Barbershop and Shave Parlor in Warwick. His income depends on the number of clients he sees each week.
“Now with our youngest in pre-k, I’m looking forward to finally getting back to work. It will take a lot of the pressure off,” said Perez.
Perez’s path to employment was not a smooth transition. With only a GED and a four-year block of unaccounted time on a resume, the job offers weren’t coming through. Perez took a course at the Community College of Rhode Island and became a certified Phlebotomist, but every application for full time work was rejected. “They kept saying they were looking for someone with experience.”
As part of the Phlebotomy certification course, Perez did get some limited internship experience so she suspected there was another problem. “CCRI taught me the skill, but didn’t teach me how to get the job – how to write a resume or a cover letter, or how to approach job interviews,” she said. “I was getting nowhere. I looked and looked and there was nothing.”
Perez wondered if another course would improve her chances and looked into programs to become a medical assistant. Most local programs ranged in price from $1,500 to $15,000, and therefore were out of reach for the young family, but the program at Genesis Center was an option that provided other supports she needed in order to go back to school. The classes were every day from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and she could be home when her kids came home. On the days her son didn’t go to pre-k, child care was available at Genesis Center. And because Perez was on SNAP, she was eligible for the training through SNAP Employment and Training. The SNAP E&T program, administered by LISC Rhode Island, provides participants with free job training through participating providers, as well as support services like child care.
“I couldn’t have done it without Genesis Center,” Perez says. “I’m so thankful to the caring, supportive staff for giving me a chance.”
The Medical Assistant program at Genesis Center is a 16-week classroom program followed by a 6-week internship. It’s designed to teach the student everything necessary to prepare for a position as a medical assistant or a medical secretary, and includes personal patient care, electronic health records, hygiene procedures and HIPPA regulations.
“We have a number of employment pathways here,” says Shannon Carroll, President and CEO of the Providence-based Genesis Center, which is a participating SNAP E&T provider as well as host to the LISC Financial Opportunity Center (FOC) and its Bridges to Career Opportunities (BCO) program. “Through the BCO, we’re able to bundle services and offer contextualized education in a way that has had a positive impact on our success rates.”
LISC Rhode Island provides community organizations like Genesis Center with financial support and technical assistance to operate Financial Opportunity Centers and implement BCO, a program that integrates the bundled services of the FOC with contextualized education and targeted skills training.
“The bundling of services lets us deliver exactly what the student needs,” said Carroll. “If they are one or two courses shy of their GED, we can work with what they have and layer on courses to complement their training. We can provide instruction in financial literacy, one-on-one coaching, and provide the supports they need to get through and get a job. We have child care on the premises, which is critical for so many.”
Carroll measures employment results as one key indicator of success, and the BCO program adds important flexibility when coaching clients.
The FOC model maintains that the core services work best when they are integrated, and that is exactly what Carroll has found
An independent study conducted by the Economic Mobility Corporation found that FOC participants have greater success in meeting their financial goals than do people in programs offering employment assistance alone. FOC clients are more likely to be employed year-round, reduce non-asset related debt and build positive credit histories.
“Bundling services definitely makes a difference,” says Carroll. Perez agrees.
“The course was great, but they also showed me how to write a resume. I look back on the resume I sent out before, and it’s like night and day,” says Perez. “These are basic things that everyone should be taught.”
Perez landed a job at Lifespan, Rhode Island’s top hospital group, shortly after her graduation from Genesis Center as a Medical Assistant. She started in May.
“I’m really so excited. I can’t wait, and my husband is thrilled,” says Perez. “There is a lot about this job that I can learn and they will help train me. There’s a lot of room to grow. I’m so excited about the possibilities.”