Creative Collaboration Amidst COVID-19

This article is written from the perspective of a workforce development staff member.
 

In December of 2020, Christy Trammel, Three Rivers Chamber of Commerce president, reached out to Business Services Coordinator Shawn DeYoung asking for urgent support. Trammel said DeYoung was at the top of her list as she had worked with Michigan Works! Southwest for over 12 years and trusted the BST to provide support for an area homeless man seeking employment.

The man was a qualified job seeker but recently had his few belongings stolen and lacked a valid Michigan ID. Concurrently, a local manufacturer was struggling to hire talented workers.

When DeYoung learned of the man’s barriers to employment, he sought out assistance from the Employer Resource Network (ERN). The ERN is proficient in these kinds of scenarios, and DeYoung was confident the teams could work together to find a solution.

Due to COVID-19, obtaining a Michigan ID from the Secretary of State was seemingly impossible. But without an ID, this man could not secure employment and would, in effect, remain homeless. The ERN is often challenged to think outside of the box, so it worked with the man to contact shelters where he previously stayed, hoping one of them might have a copy of his ID.

As luck would have it, a copy was tracked down, and, within 12 hours of Trammel’s desperate call to the Michigan Works! Southwest Business Services team, the final piece of the puzzle was placed in order to get this homeless man employed. The document was sent to the job seeker who then secured an interview with the area manufacture in need of workers. Within days, the man was hired.

Because of our ability to work as a team, we helped a member of the community secure employment, a local employer hire a valued worker, and a homeless man to secure stable housing.

2020 was fraught with challenges, but it also provided opportunities to collaborate creatively with business partners. The COVID-19 pandemic presented additional layers of difficulties not only for the Southwest Michigan workforce but for those of us who work to support employers and employees. Fortunately, the UpJohn Institute‘s programs are uniquely situated to meet the needs of community agencies, businesses, and workers, as demonstrated by this example of exceptional collaboration between the Michigan Works! Southwest Business Services team, Employer Resource Network, and the Three Rivers Chamber of Commerce.