Listening for Change

Las Cruces Bulletin Column – August 17, 2018

Change happens when we listen.

That’s the profound lesson learned in July when a group of parents with young children were willing to sit across the table from Workforce Connections staff members and share their real-life experiences with employment and education.

The event took place as a result of the power of partnership. The Success Partnership in Doña Ana County supported by Ngage provided the forum for parents in the early learning community to connect with Workforce Connections staff who are part of the partnership with The Bridge of Southern New Mexico. And the whole thing was funded with a grant from the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico.

Leveraging the early learning community’s networks, parents in Chaparral and Las Cruces were invited share their personal stories about their desires to get jobs, improve their earnings, and/or go back to school. They also spoke to the barriers that kept them from those desires.

The best way to sum up what we heard is, “It’s complicated.” The issues discussed were all the things everyone already knows. But hearing them one-on-one, from the heart of someone genuinely wanting to improve their lives for the purpose of strengthening their families, had a powerfully emotional impact on all who listened.

For the parents, the conversation changed the way they saw their situations. After being heard, those sitting across the table from the parents were able to share information about the programs and resources that almost all of them simply didn’t know existed. The parents also were able to build relationships with those who really could help them use those resources that have been there for them all along.

What happened over those two meetings was that “providers” of services saw themselves as “partners” in a family’s journey. And those who felt “powerless” to change their situations, began to understand just how much “power” there was in using the system designed to help them on that journey.

For sure, the single greatest thing that had previously stood in their way was what we’ve been saying all along – lack of awareness.

What many in this community think is the “unemployment office” is actually a hub for opportunity, including:

Job Preparedness: Resume support, improving job interviewing skills, financial assistance if funds are needed for proper clothing for an interview or work.

Job Placement: Pre-screening and preparation of job candidates to match them to available jobs and provide the employers up to 75% of their salary for the first few months of employment to ensure it’s a good match for the employer.

Tuition Assistance: Up to $15,000 in funds are available to help those who want to earn career credentials, associate degrees, or bachelor degrees. If the certification is one in demand, like those in healthcare or information technology among others, those funds are available even if it’s a non-credit program offered at the Doña Ana Community College Workforce Center.

That day, stereotypes were shattered. Misinformation and misunderstanding gave way to possibilities. Those then led to positive, forward-moving action steps for the families to resume their journeys that, for one reason or another, had been shut down before.

Changing the future of our county lies in changing culture – tearing down the silos that keep us apart. When we succeed in building community between those who once felt disconnected and alone and those who are here to connect them to the very real opportunities that are here, it’s a win-win.

Working together, we become passionate advocates for one another’s success.