Seminar helps unemployed women find work

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COLUMBIA - Twenty years ago, Felicia English was a high school student living in the projects, struggling to support her newborn baby.

"Now here I am, a masters student, a first-time homeowner, first generation college student...and it's a blessing," English said.

After getting pregnant at 15, she moved from projects in Columbia to the state of California. With the help of family friends, English found entry-level positions, working everywhere from hotels to fast food restaurants.

After 10 years in California, she moved back to Columbia and completed her bachelor's degree in business at Columbia College. She did so free of charge, thanks to grants and a working position at the school, all of which she learned about through the same mentors that helped her get those first minimum wage jobs.

Today, English works as an education representative for William Woods University, and is simultaneously completing William Woods' MBA program. Outside of work, she's helping young women, who are struggling like she did, get back on their feet.

English serves as co-chair of the Changing the Odds committee. The committee is a branch of the Women's Network, a Columbia Chamber of Commerce group that works to connect and empower women to pursue both education and careers. The Changing the Odds committee focuses on helping women who are looking for ways to improve their job prospects.

The committee partnered with the Assistance League of Mid-Missouri to host a career development seminar Saturday, Oct. 4. The event is tailored to young women struggling to get back into the workforce after an absence. The workshop will teach participants how to write a resume, fill out job applications, prepare for job interviews, find employment opportunities, and with a fashion show, dress professionally.

"A lot of these women are single mothers. A lot of them have been incarcerated. A lot of them have drug and alcohol abuse," English said. "Once you've been in those situations, through the law, through the courts, if you have small children...it's hard to find babysitters, hard to get around. Some may not have transportation. It's hard just to get by."

In addition to the one-day workshop, groups from the seminar will help participants use what they learn to find long-term success.

"We do provide scholarships at the University, Columbia College and Stephens for women who are returning to the workforce," said Assistance League President Betsy Rall. "They're for women who have had their education interrupted and need a little support in going back."

Job Finders employee Catherine Schaeffer said the temp agency will meet seminar participants and invite them to enter the Job Finders system.

"We work very hard to try to match them with a position that works with their skill set," Schaeffer said. "We also look for positions where, if they prove they're a good employee, they can get hired on to that company full-time through a temporary position."

English said she would not be where she is today without the help of working professionals.

"Now it's my turn to show other people that they can overcome those obstacles, and they're not alone," English said. "We want to try to provide resources for these ladies so that they can receive the opportunities that they are entitled."

To learn more about the seminar, visit the Even the Odds Facebook event page or call 573-817-9119.

 

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