Last year Shawna Bee was working at Wal-Mart. Most weeks she would get 15 hours of work. When she requested more hours, the shifts she received were at times that it was nearly impossible to get daycare for her two children. And while she wanted to get off of financial assistance, the unfortunate reality was that she would never be able to do that earning what she did at the time.
Bee knew she was a good worker and she knew she could work in the professional field. She also knew she needed help.
That’s when she decided to approach CLIMB Wyoming’s Laramie office. After receiving training and work experience over five months, she had climbed over multiple mountains and barriers in her life with the help of CLIMB’s staff.
Now she’s gainfully employed by Coffey Engineering and Surveying as an administrative assistant. Not only does she have financial stability, she also has stability in many facets of her life.
For her, the difference is night and day.
“I wouldn’t have made that journey without the program,” Bee explained. “I didn’t have the computer skills… I just didn’t have the skills in general. And I wanted to just be in a position in my life where as a single mom, I’d have a good wage. Working the jobs I was working, there was no way I could get off of financial aid. I needed to have a good wage so I could just be able to take care of myself and my kids.”
But the training and job placement through CLIMB didn’t just provide financial stability for Bee. It also gave her an opportunity to reconnect with her children.
“Before this, I worked weekends and my daughter, who’s in kindergarten, would have to be gone during the days and then just seeing her during the week was so hit or miss. I felt like I wasn’t getting any good time with her at all. During the week, she gets home and it’s ‘do homework, eat supper, get ready for bed’ and that’s it. But now we actually get to do stuff and I just feel like we’ve really gotten to communicate with one another again,” Bee said.
Bee’s experiences as a single mother in Wyoming are all too common. But fortunately, her success with the help of CLIMB is also common for all single mothers who go through the program, Laramie director Beth Ward said.
“We start building a relationship with the women before they start the program,” Ward said. “It’s about long-term success so in order for them to make an informed decision about entering the program they need a lot of information. A lot of women take a risk to come through CLIMB. Many of them are working and their employers won’t move them to part time while they train with us. Some women have to quit their jobs and go without working for two months before they get into their CLIMB job.”
In Laramie, CLIMB helps 20 single mothers every year get training and placement in a permanent, professional job. But it’s not a cakewalk for the participants to make the transition into the professional world. The first two months, participants receive training from a business that has partnered with CLIMB. The next three months are spent actually doing the job. During this process, CLIMB’s staff helps participants with a variety of life circumstances, providing counseling and advice where necessary.
But while success isn’t easy, counselor Marce Nesslinger said that all of the program’s participants bring such passion and motivation that success is the only option.
“They aren’t just all fun and enthusiastic about being here. A lot of counseling is compulsory. Most times, people do it because they’re in trouble. This group is here because they want to be, so it ends up being positive as opposed to punitive,” Nesslinger said.
By building a strong support network for the participants, Ward explained that CLIMB also helps build up the confidence for the single mothers who go through the program. Many participants have never worked in a professional environment and it’s up to the staff to make sure their transition is a successful one.
“When you take somebody out of what they know — working retail, fast food or things like that — they have no context for it, they’re in foreign territory. And when you’re all alone, you need that support,” Ward said.
It was that level of support from the staff that helped CLIMB graduate Rachel Turner become employed full-time at Albany County Public Health.
“I had been in so many dead end jobs,” Turner said. “This was an opportunity to further my career instead of just working. It’s still amazing to me that a single mom that has no experience could get into a job like that. Before, I didn’t have the innards to do it, but CLIMB gave me that confidence to help me get past all of my fears.”
The employers who partner with CLIMB also benefit from the program, Ward said. While the employers provide training, CLIMB reimburses wages for the employee during training. After completing the program, employers have a capable, motivated employee.
“It benefits the employers as much as it does the single moms,” Ward said.
“If they want an employee that has aptitude and motivation to be successful for the long-term, this can be a great partnership. That’s one thing that’s really impressed me is how motivated these women are, how passionate they are about succeeding and making a better life for their children.”
For more information about the CLIMB program, contact Beth Ward at 742-9346.
Peter Baumann’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org