Employment Services customers celebrated for finding jobs, purpose

Published on November 30, 2017

Curtis Pierce is hopeful again. Hopeful, and hungry to learn.

After losing his job, unemployment had thrust him into a spiral of negativity. Then, he reached out to Placer County Employment Services. They paired him with a counselor and began offering support, ranging from resume and interview help to on-the-job experience.

Today, Pierce has a full-time position and is also attending American River College studying automation and mechatronics. And he has no intention to slow down anytime soon, with plans to move forward in the field of mechanical engineering after finishing his associate’s degree.

“It’s a hunger. I want to learn more. [This experience] just sparked something, where I’m addicted to learning now,” he said. “They lit the fuse, and I took off from there.”

Earlier this month, Placer County held its third annual recognition ceremony for 102 program participants who have successfully transitioned into employment this year, and a handful of local employers who have helped them on their journeys. Though it was a rainy night, about two dozen families were in attendance.

The event featured food, an inspirational keynote speaker and a raffle of donated prizes. Family members clapped and cheered as each participant received a certificate, and employers from companies such as Results Property Management and GAP Inc. shared how their businesses have benefitted by utilizing the WEX and Help to Hire (PDF) programs in bringing on clients.

A significant component of Employment Services is the Work Experience Program, also known as WEX. WEX places CalWORKs recipients on paid and unpaid job assignments with public, private and nonprofit agencies at no cost to employers for up to a year. Pierce spent just a week filing paperwork through WEX before he was able to land a full-time job as a forklift operator.

“They gave me the push, the motivation,” he said. “It allowed me to get out and see that I have talent, I have potential and there were places that wanted me.”

For Rose McMurray, her WEX position blossomed into a fulfilling career. After starting out as a WEX intern for Child Advocates of Placer County, a nonprofit organization that supports at-risk children and families, she continued on as an AmeriCorps volunteer with the group before receiving a full-time position.

Now, she’s off welfare and living in an apartment in Auburn with her 7-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son.

McMurray’s own life experience, having combatted addiction and homelessness, has been invaluable in helping her connect with Child Advocates’ clients, many of whom are parents in the process of trying to better themselves and reunify with their children.

“They trust me. They know I’ve been where they’re at,” McMurray said. “And it it gives them hope that if I can do it, so can they.”

“That drive is really what makes her probably the most valuable employee here,” said supervisor Jamie Nichols.

For both McMurray and Pierce, their work has brought new purpose and meaning.

“It’s changed my life tremendously, It’s given me an opportunity I never even thought I could fulfill,” McMurray said.

“You’ll get 1,000 ‘no’s’ when you’re looking for a job, but all you need is one ‘yes’ to change your life and your family’s life,” Pierce said. “And to actually feel worth something.”

View video testimonials from Employment Services customers:

View photos from the recognition ceremony: 

Placer County's Employment Services office, which offers support for resident seeking employment, ranging from resume and interview help to on-the-job experience, held the third annual recognition awards ceremony. The awards honor participants who have gone on to join the workforce. Photo: Placer County