Did you know what “WFH” stood for a month ago? “Work From Home” has become a new normal that many workers, including Towards Employment staff, are adjusting to in the wake of coronavirus social distancing protocols.
Staci Wampler, recently promoted to Director of Industry Partnerships at Towards Employment, had to quickly jump in and adapt to work from home life, balancing and divvying up parental duties, and keeping the best interest of her staff and the agency as a whole in mind.
Staci is a parent to four children under the age of four. “Things have been…interesting,” she says about working in the upstairs attic of her home. Her wife works opposite her while their children are downstairs with a caregiver. Several of Staci’s TE team members are also parents who now balance working from home. Many TE graduates are also juggling work and child care.
Staci’s onboarding process was rapid. Her promotion occurred two weeks before COVID-19 started impacting our community. The first thing she thought was: “I wanted to make sure TE staff was set up for success – because they are the first line of defense for TE participants and graduates. With my own frontline experience and growth at Towards Employment (Staci has been a TE employee for 17 years), I know how important communicating flexibility and transparency are in uncertain situations so we can continue to serve our participants to the best of our ability.” For Towards Employment staff, daily Microsoft Team meetings via video chat have become the way they check in with each other – to make sure that they are doing ok personally and professionally. “Being authentic and adaptable to each person’s situation is key.”
As part of the leadership team, Staci’s input has been critical. “Thinking daily about modeling different solutions for challenges that might occur with my “new” team of directors was eye-opening. We had to consider every eventuality; then think it through, and have a plan to react when it was implemented. And we are still thinking and planning and trying things out.”
Staci shares that Towards Employment has had many unexpected challenges. “On the Industry Partnerships team, many TE graduates are in healthcare and manufacturing – so they are still working!” While they continue to work, they struggle to find care for their children who are out of school. Career coaches, many of whom can personally relate to working and providing child care, are hearing back from graduates who are being asked to step up and handle new responsibilities due to the evolving natures of their workplaces. Some need immediate supports like daycare or transportation assistance to be able to continue to work. Recently career coaches have had to meet graduates to make a “curbside” delivery of a bus pass or steel toed boots.
For graduates who have lost their jobs and newly unemployed job seekers, we are working diligently to be able to connect them to their next step – while also maintaining proper social distancing and following CDC protocols. Staci notes: “So many team members are currently working to build and start ongoing online orientations and connections to training; but the first step is to call in to Towards Employment and be connected to a staff member who can evaluate what is needed immediately.” Staci, echoes so many when she says, “We are taking this one day at a time, making sure we have the right services and resources that are needed, and that we can deliver them at the right time. Like so many of our staff have said and still say to TE graduates – we got your back.”
If you would like to help us support Clevelanders who have been left unemployed or underemployed due to COVID-19, you can donate at www.towardsemployment.org/donate.