The 45 students who ventured into Janie Clay's office last academic year had vastly different stories that all ended with the same problem: each of those 45 had been unable to find employment.
Some barrier, whether having to drop out of high school, lack of child care or not having a driver's license, had prevented those students from finding a career.
They eventually made their way to Clay, co-coordinator for the Allied Jobs program at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College, in hopes that she could help them break through those barriers. And she did, but not without the help of local businesses such as The Main Place.
Allied Jobs is a federally funded grant administered through the Department of Human Services and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. Clay aids her students by guiding them in making career choices and by pursuing the appropriate training needed for that career. In her classroom, students work to improve their employability and soft skills.
Allied Jobs students are further trained by participating in an internship with an area business. A partnership established by NEO's Allied Jobs and Miami's own The Main Place is a starting point for each of Clay's students. The average student interns with The Main Place for three months, learning the importance of a good work ethic, on-the-job training and knowledge that increases their employability- the very skills that will someday enable them to land permanent, full-time employment. Once they are ready, those students are placed in a second internship that is more closely aligned with the career they are seeking.
The Main Place, located at 17 N. Main in Miami, provides battered women the start to an abuse-free existence by giving them the necessities to re-build a home, including clothing, household items and toys for their children.
This semester, 45 students made their way through Clay's door and into an internship at The Main Place, said Clay. They ran the cash register and stocked the store's shelves, all the while learning the skills that enabled them to have the career they wanted.
The Oklahoma Career Technical Education Equity Council recently acknowledged the affiliation formed between Allied Jobs and The Main Place by recognizing the store as an Outstanding Business Partner. The Main Place was presented with a plaque and with citations from Oklahoma's Senate and House of Representatives. Senator Charles Wyrick was recently on the NEO campus to present the citations to representatives of The Main Place and NEO.
"We nominated The Main Place because it has gone above and beyond in order to help out our students," said Clay. "My job would be so much more difficult without them."
The Main Place has also reaped the benefits of this partnership, said Deedee Cox, executive director for the Community Crisis Center, which runs the store. The state of the economy has required The Main Place to cut down the number of paid staff it can employ. The Allied Jobs program has helped to fill the void that the store itself could not.
"This is a win-win," said Cox. "We started the shop so that our clients would have a place to go. Now, through Allied Jobs, we are able to reach an entirely different group of people who are in need of help and seeking their place in the community." Clay said that while the partnership has been a tremendous boost for Allied Jobs and the Main Place, the real victory lies within what is accomplished by the students.
"The end result is that my students are given the feeling of being a valued member of a team, something many of them have never experienced before," said Clay. "They learn that they had what it takes to be successful inside them, all along."