At the outset of the shutdown we were forced to pause our programming, and learning that more than 75% of our recent grads lost their jobs was disheartening. “We knew we had to act fast,” says Manny Rodriguez, RW’s Executive Director. “And when we put the request for help out to our supporters, everyone jumped in.” We quickly raised $80,000 as part of our COVID-19 Emergency Fund, through which we were able to provide housing and basic-needs grants to ensure our alumni remained stable. “We’ve given over $50,000 to grads so far, and have earmarked the remainder to continue providing these life-sustaining grants.”
This fall, we rolled out new learning opportunities for alumni. Partners from Power Construction and the City of Chicago led advanced training sessions in electrical and painting to help grads hone new skills and make sure they don’t get too rusty in their down-time. And we’re continuing to provide transitional employment via our Social Enterprise to anyone who’s interested. Recent graduate Parish S. is one of the alumni who got involved. He jumps right in whenever he’s at the shop, and our Social Enterprise team is grateful. “He’s a great problem-solver in the shop,” said Chad Hagedorn, Social Enterprise Manager. “He’s very thorough and always takes it upon himself to make processes more efficient. He’ll be a great asset to any future employer.”
We also brought on an Alumni Services Coordinator dedicated to strengthening our relationships with alumni. Elvert Berry, a recent alumnus of the program, leads the way in this role. “I connect with alumni regularly to get a feel for what their needs are,” said Elvert, who goes by Berry around the shop. “If they’re working, I see if they are in a space where they’re trying to level up. If they’re not, I send job leads and arrange trainings to help them get to the point of being actively employed.” What he really works to do, though, is support them. “I try to be a mentor to them.” And it’s clear, after only a short time in his role, that he really is.
The impact of this investment has already been felt. “35% of our alumni who were laid off due to the pandemic are now back on the job,” notes Molly Moriarity, RW’s Program Director. “And as the spring hiring season ramps up, we’re optimistic that everyone will get back to work soon—and we’re here to help."
Support transitional employment opportunities for our alumni by purchasing a piece from our Social Enterprise.