by Ken Toll
Two years ago, United Way unveiled a vision for our community and a bold goal to take us there. Our vision: A community rich in opportunities to eliminate poverty and allow all people to achieve financial stability and success. Our goal: Help 5,000 Jackson County residents develop a pathway to financial success by 2025.
Everything we do, every task we perform, every program or partnership we support is aimed at Financial Stability. In that light, we know these two critical things:
- One, a good-paying job is the most effective pathway to financial stability for individuals and families.
- Two, a steady, productive workforce is the most effective pathway to business strength and economic growth.
If we, as a community, can do both of those things well, we will reach our goal and achieve that vision.
Sometimes working people face barriers along their pathways, barriers that might seem simple to you or me: a car that won’t start, or a sick child who can’t go to school. But that car might be the only way for an employee to get to work. The parent of that sick child might not be able to afford a babysitter, and so she has to miss work. For them, the barrier isn’t so simple.
And then there are barriers that are much, much bigger. Maybe it’s an employee struggling with substance abuse or depression, or is the sole caretaker for an elderly parent. Maybe it’s someone who never finished school, who has somehow managed to push through the difficulties that go with being unable to read well, or do simple math. Maybe an employee is in financial crisis simply because she never learned how to build a budget and manage her finances.
What if we brought together all the strengths and resources that Jackson County is blessed with—all the employers, all the support services, every person who wants to make this community better—and removed those barriers?
That is the focus of a new partnership in Jackson County, which we call JobSTAR – Jackson’s Business Resource Network. JobSTAR (Job Support, Talent And Retention) is a business strategy where companies and support agencies come together to meet the personal needs of employees. They pool resources to hire a Success Coach who understands employees’ personal needs and can connect workers confidentially to the support systems that help them get past barriers and get through a crisis.
A network like JobSTAR improves workplace engagement, helps companies retain employees, and strengthens the workforce. It also improves the lives of employees so they can work, earn a good living … and provide for their families.
From a business perspective, JobSTAR makes sense, just from employee retention alone. It costs a business at least $3,500 for every employee turnover. If a Success Coach helps retain just two employees for each partner company, that investment pays off.
I’m proud to announce that a core group of sponsors have joined with United Way to create JobSTAR. They are: the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan Works! Southeast, and Family Service and Children’s Aid.
I’m also excited to announce JobSTAR’s participating companies: Industrial Steel Treating, Melling Tool Co., Jackson County Intermediate School District, Lifeways Community Mental Health, John George Home and Jackson Friendly Home, and United Way’s CARE enrollment program. Of course, there’s room for more local businesses to jump aboard!
JobSTAR’s Success Coach, Scott Walker, is already on the ground at our participating companies. He brings a wealth of experience in workforce development and vocational rehabilitation, making him a perfect fit for JobSTAR. In a future blog, we’ll introduce you to him and his important work.
In all my years living in this community, I can’t think of another time when a partnership of this magnitude, with this much promise, has come together to make a difference.
In the end, it’s all about partnership. It’s all about coming together to tackle the issues that plague our community. JobSTAR is a great example of how we can transform our community.