When Katelyn, a single, stay-at-home mom, returned to the workforce last year, she set her sights on securing a job that would provide a comfortable life for her and her son.  

“I felt stuck in limbo. I had to figure out what I was going to do and how I was going to support my son – my son is my biggest motivation in life,” Katelyn said. 

As fate had it, while walking around Chicago’s Bud Billiken parade, Katelyn came across a flyer for the Jane Addams Resource Corporation (JARC). A United Way of Metro Chicago partner, JARC is building thriving communities through high-quality skills training and support services for lower-income and unemployed workers. 

Together, we help ensure that our neighbors have access to high-quality careers. When you support United Way, you’re not only uplifting individuals like Katelyn, you help build a network of assistance for all of our neighbors who are reentering the workforce. 

Though she at first stumbled, Katelyn was determined to use this newfound support to succeed. When she scored below the requirements on her initial assessments, she enrolled in a refresher program offered by JARC to raise her math score from a 7.1. In just three short weeks, Katelyn increased her score to 12.9, an increase of nearly six grade levels.

Now, she was ready to begin her training. 

Since working with machinery was brand new to Katelyn, her first day in program was overwhelming. But she was put at ease when she met her technical instructor and fellow trainees. “We had an amazing class. Everyone was willing to help me right from the jump,” she said. Her favorite part of the program was working on the machines every day and earning two National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS) credentials.

“I loved it!” Katelyn said. “[My teacher] taught me everything I needed to know from the bottom up.”

In addition to her training, Katelyn worked closely with JARC’s financial coach to create a monthly budget to pay off her car debt and work towards getting her own place. Later on, she met with a career developer to discuss her long-term financial health and rebuilding her credit score. She also received a weekly gas card which made her commute to the training center easier.

Today, Katelyn is prospering as a machine operator making a starting wage of $17.50/hour. She also receives full dental, medical, vision and 401K benefits through her employer.  

“When people find out what I do, they look at me like I’m crazy, but they also think it’s awesome. I nod my head and say, ‘Yeah, that’s right. This girly-girl from South Chicago is a machinist,’” Katelyn laughed.

As she looks to the future, she hopes to move up in the industry, while raising her son. 

“Right now, I work on the lathe [machine] and I can read and write those programs in 20 minutes,” she said. “My biggest goal in my work life is to keep moving up and be a programmer in the next year or two.”

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