People, Partnerships and Possibilities There is nothing more powerful than people who have overcome odds and succeeded sharing their own stories. Last week, FEC apprentices Nathan Ayers and LaKeshia Drew headed to Arlington, VA to tell their own stories at the US DOL's ETA Vision 2030 Convening. The two supported the theme "Investing in America's Workforce." They proved that the investment is worth it. "LaKeshia and Nathan are more than apprentices," said Rohina Behrmann, who is Director of Special Projects and Employer Relations at the FEC. "They have become true industry champions." The stories Nathan and LaKeshia shared resonated so deeply that they were asked to speak multiple times. Their last appearance at the Convening was on the main stage, to an audience full of public and private stakeholders, members of the Biden Administration, and workforce development experts. "My experience through the workforce development [system] has been quite amazing," said Nathan. His own success has led him to become a workforce advocate. Nathan is an apprentice at at Yoodle, a local digital marketing agency. This is one of many opportunities available within the broader field of information technology.
Nathan's positive experience with the FEC, and his amazing career change, makes him passionate about sharing those opportunities with others. "Now I am out there, recruiting others like me who are looking for a career change...sharing my story, and hearing their stories, and the fact that I am able to resonate with so many of them [means] we are having a huge success rate," Nathan explained. For him, the apprenticeship model of "earn and learn" allowed him to start his new career, and to really embrace his new career after completing his classroom training.
The clip above starts at the moment Nathan and LaKeshia are introduced. "What I loved the most, what really made me successful, was that the Full Employment Council provided a paid internship," said Nathan. "I was really able to hone in my skills that I learned in class and get on-the-job-training, and, at the same time, getting paid. I was able to pay my bills and feed my kids." For the future, Nathan would like to focus on helping people coming out of prison. Addressing that need is important to him, because that's where he started, too. He believes by introducing the opportunities through the workforce development system available before people re-enter society would impact the rate of recidivism by reducing the number of people who end up back in the criminal justice system. LaKeshia Drew had her own challenges to overcome. As someone who grew up in the foster care system, LaKeshia says the staff at the FEC often provided her with the types of support and understanding that others receive from family. She explored multiple career paths before choosing healthcare and is currently a medical assistant apprentice with University Health.
"I am possible," LaKeshia said clearly, and to loud applause. She spoke about how her experience at the Full Employment Council and University Health allowed her to provide a life for her and her sons that she did not always believe was possible.
"This program has allowed me to see things that I thought were totally impossible become reachable and possible," she said. More than that, her experience and success has allowed her sons to see what is possible. "We are building generations," she stated. When asked what she would want to leave the audience with, LaKeshia spoke passionately about how grateful she was for all the support she has received, but implored with the room - full of workforce development professionals, US DOL officials, and representatives from the Biden Administration - to keep going. "Look at me. I represent black women who have struggled. I represent a community that has been underserved and is underprivileged. I represent that child that is difficult to deal with," she began. She spoke about how, as a child of the foster care system, she had long stopped trusting "the system," but that her experience with the Full Employment Council and the workforce development system has rebuilt her trust. "You all with these [...] high degrees - let's take those hats off and get our hands dirty. I will walk side-by-side with you. I do want to thank you once again, but also want to encourage you to keep going. Keep looking. Keep building those partnerships. Because those partnerships are why I am here today," she added. "Don't forget my face or my name," said LaKeshia Drew.
It's safe to say that her name, as well as Nathan's, will definitely be remembered.