Wanting to Work in Waco

By Mallory Herridge

Ten students walked across a stage Friday, May 19, with hope radiating in their confident smiles, ready for new beginnings.  For eight weeks these students have been a part of Gateway, a rapid-workforce development program offered through Skillpoint Alliance of Waco, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in Austin, TX that expanded to the Waco area in 2016.

Skillpoint works to connect people to services and industries to achieve self-sufficiency goals.  We focus on serving the unemployed or underemployed, specifically (a) opportunity youth (16-24 year-olds who are disconnected from education and employment), and (b) individuals with barriers to employment, including those who have not completed a high school education and those who have been involved in the criminal justice system.

Gateway is the cornerstone program of Skillpoint Alliance preparing participants to earn industry-recognized certificates, at no cost to the participant, in 4-12 weeks in high-demand industry fields such as Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA), HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and related course extensions. The ultimate goal is for each certification to provide entry to a career that will lead to upward mobility and increased wages.

On Friday, our graduates celebrated the completion of their HVAC Gateway program certificate, including their NCCER certification, EPA 608 exam, TDLR HVAC Technician registration, OSHA 10 certification and First Aid/CPR Certifications.  But we also celebrated their eight-week commitment and practice of punctuality, job etiquette, resume prep, interview practice, professional communication and team work.

Per Skillpoint tradition, after receiving their graduation certificates, we asked family and friends to come to the stage, stand next to our graduates, and recite the following motto together:

“I affirm that the skills and knowledge gained through the Gateway Program will be utilized to the best of my abilities.  I will help others in my community as I am able.  I am a person of value and have gifts and talents to offer.  I am proud of my accomplishments and look forward to the prosperity of my future.”

As family members turned each graduate’s tassel, I thought about how strongly these students desire not just a job, but a career that they can be proud of and that will enable them to sufficiently support their families.  I thought about how the graduates changed since starting on March 27th. Our shiest, youngest student confidently approached a HVAC employer after the ceremony, networking with her and sharing his career goals. One of our students with multiple offenses on his record had perfect attendance in our class and the Director of Probation showed up to graduation to support him.

I thought about our partner agencies such as Goodwill, Caritas, Heart of Texas Workforce Solutions, Esther’s Closet, Centex African American Chamber of Commerce, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Maker’s Edge and Communities In Schools that provided resources and support to our students and program in various ways during the class.

I looked around the room and saw employers at graduation who had also taken time to visit our class to share about their companies and what they look for in employees.

As our students thanked them for attending, they were not thanking a stranger and the employers were not just seeing a resume with potential barriers, they were seeing an individual committed to a better life for themselves and their family.

Waco is full of people of value that desire to work.  We hope many of our students gain confidence to pursue further training at TSTC or MCC but we look forward to seeing how ALL of our students use Skillpoint Alliance Waco as a stepping stone to start the career and life path of their dreams.

*Special thanks to Rapoport Foundation and Cooper Foundation for their generous gifts and support. Skillpoint Waco will soon expand program offerings to include the Empower program, our 6-weeks digital proficiency classes provided in both Spanish and English and offered at no-cost.

Mallory Herridge is the Waco Program Director for Skillpoint Alliance.  She has lived in Waco since 2002 earning her Bachelor’s degree as well as Master of Social Work (2008) from the Diana Garland School of Social Work and Master of Divinity (2010) degree from Truett Seminary at Baylor University. Prior to joining Skillpoint Alliance, Mallory worked with the Baylor Texas Hunger Initiative utilizing her experiences in social work, community organizing and community building to further public-private partnerships and reduce hunger in Texas. Mallory also served as a Program Manager through Communities In Schools (CIS) creating unique partnerships and collaborations surrounding students with a community of support to success in school. Mallory enjoys being a new mom, and attending her husband’s Mentalism shows at the Hippodrome. Contact Mallory by phone at 254.732.0620 or by email at [email protected].  

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.


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