Chance meeting leads to partnership

A chance meeting between two women has resulted in a partnership to help other women join the workforce.
Jackie Clouse, Public Service Company of Oklahoma distribution manager, and Tulsa Technology Center instructor Jettie Pylate are spearheading the effort to teach skills to those really wanting to enter the workplace through Project Hire.
Actually, Project Hire under Pylate’s direction already was in place when the women met.
But Clouse brought about 50 WINUP members to the table who eagerly stepped forward to clearly demonstrate that women can be employed and move up the corporate ladder.
WINUP — Women International Network of Utility Professionals — members come from a variety of companies, AEP Public Service Co., Oklahoma Gas and Electric and ONEOK. They are open to other women in the utility industry including those working with cable, water, gas and telephone companies regardless of size or location.
Project Hire generally is for women, though one man currently is in the program.
These individuals must qualify for and be selected by the Department of Human Services to be admitted to Project Hire, Clouse said. Once in the program, they are provided with opportunities to go to school to earn their GED if necessary, build educational skills, including English if necessary, and raise their abilities that would be acceptable in the workplace.
‘‘We do a lot of one-on-one interaction with the participants,’’ Clouse continued. ‘‘We help them understand that it is possible for a woman to succeed in the workplace, whether it is a secretary, accountant or attorney.’’
Two program graduates have elected to go to law school, she said. There are many other choices and a significant number go into medicine. Jobs are not limited to white collar professions. Welders and other technical skills required by manufacturing are taught.
These are not people who have lived on welfare for generations, Clouse continued. Some are married, a good number are divorced mothers raising their children. They are making significant choices to change their lives and be able to add to the community. They don’t want to be dependent upon the state.
‘‘Our goal is to help those willing to work hard to succeed,’’ she continued. So many don’t have a high school education or soft skills needed for the workplace.
Another role is teaching about the business environment, what is required and what they need to know as part of the workplace.
Details such as what to wear, the importance of being on the job as scheduled and work habits that will help them keep their position.
There is a need and goal to further expand Project Hire, Clouse continued. WINUP is helping TTC develop a mentoring program to help students learn about their likes and dislikes, where their real interests really are.
WINUP members work with students as mentors and friendships have deepened during that time together.
Often, the mentors will ‘‘adopt’’ the student during the program, doing something special throughout their time together. That might mean sending a card at special times, birthday, anniversary or other holiday. Sometimes it means providing Christmas not only for them, but also their family. When there are older children — teens — their names aren’t on the Angel Tree. Without the mentor’s support, they wouldn’t have a Christmas or special holiday.
Sometimes the student’s need is for gasoline so they can get to school.
WINUP has partnered with QT for an emergency gas card if the student is struggling to get to class because they don’t have fuel for their vehicle.
They already have enough problems and transportation to class shouldn’t be one of them, she added.
Some friendships continue and others are for the moment, Clouse said. Students move to other communities because of employment opportunities and contact has become limited, if any.
These special projects are solely at the WINUP member’s expense, Clouse added.
Results have been positive among members because they are encouraging people who don’t receive much, if any, from families.
The support also is important because some participants initially might feel it is easier to stay on welfare rather than go out into the competitive world and find a job.
These students are in class from six months to one year, depending upon their skill level when they first join.
WINUP members have seen two classes graduate.
These ceremonies are full graduations, complete with caps and gowns and a social following the event.
Sometimes children will children will leave the audience to sit on their mother’s lap. It is a very emotional event, Clouse said. There are a lot of tears for those coming down the aisle because they often hadn’t participated in a high school graduation.
Many times the mothers are examples to their children who also are in school, Clouse said. These children realize that if mom can do it — get an education — they can.
Families come to the graduation and there might be 150 people attending to watch a graduating class, Clouse continued. Some children want to help with the activity, serving punch at the reception or doing something helpful. They want to be a part of mom’s graduation. They are proud of her. Mom often is the example to her teenager, showing that it is possible to succeed.
WINUP members are very dedicated, spending a lot of time talking and mentoring their charges, she added. Everyone involved has a real desire to be successful. That is the goal of the partnership.
Graduation and opportunities to enter the workplace can present additional challenges to the Project Hire participants. The women need clothing suitable for interviews.
WINUP members conduct drives for clothing suitable for the women to wear at interviews and when they first report for work, Clouse said. In addition, they also have the opportunity for a Mary Kay makeover and a hair styling. This adds to the excitement of the job search process.
‘‘It is a very positive feeling for everyone involved,’’ she said.

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