Catholic Charities offers many programs to aid families and individuals in crisis situations, but a jobs program that started in 2015 has become important for creating permanent change in many lives.
“We wanted a jobs program for a long time,” said Catholic Charities Chief Communications Manager Rochelle Blaschke Schlortt, who has been with the nonprofit since 2005. “Our first attempt was a computer lab. People were always using that, and then our vision grew.”
Sherry Stulpin was a big part of that, as she helped forge the Life Skills & Career Development Center that has since helped about 260 people obtain employment.
“About 10 people a month are getting a job, which is a beautiful thing,” said Stulpin, a Life Stills instructor who has a master’s degree in education. “We never wanted this to be about a cattle call.”
Stulpin and Catholic Charities Community Programs Manager Joel Fluegge, along with a handful of valuable volunteers, provide one-on-one instruction for their clients. They assist with interview skills and resume training, while creating a plan that includes specific goals.
Andy Barton, the CEO of Catholic Charities for three years, has high praise for the Life Skills program, which filled its first job in July 2015.
“The people we serve have potential, even more than we realize sometimes,” Barton said. “The Life Skills program helps get people off the street and changes how some businesses might look at those people who were sleeping in front of their store; maybe now they look at them as a potential employee. Employers are taking a chance on folks whose home address might be at the Salvation Army shelter.”
Barton said Catholic Charities’ work is also helping employers.
“We serve the business community by creating stronger families and more disposable income to spend at businesses,” he said.
Stulpin has connections with more than a dozen local businesses and nonprofits, where she can pick up the phone and get an interview for a client she deems worthy.
Barton said his organization works closely with the Pikes Peak Workforce Center — PPWFC’s interim executive director Traci Marques is on Catholic Charities’ board of directors — but their clients may be at different junctures in their lives.
“We’ve worked very closely with the [Pikes Peak] Workforce Center through the years,” Barton said. “What we’ve found is that the folks we’re employing are at a different level than what the workforce center is set to work with. I imagine the workforce center is not seeing people coming out of the shelters, off of the streets, which are a lot of the folks we’re serving.”
Schlortt said the ultimate goal is to get people into careers, and not just entry-level jobs.
“We’re filling those lower-level jobs,” Barton said, “but there are jobs in need in our community at the higher level, so how can we bridge that skills gap and partner with manufacturing companies for skills training? I think there’s an opportunity there for us. The dream is to get them into apprenticeships and job training, such as through Pikes Peak Community College. Maybe we can find a situation where they don’t have to be in school, where a la carte opportunities are available.”
Read more about the Catholic Charities Life Skills & Career Development Center in this week’s print edition of the Business Journal.