New HFA Job Readiness Grants help community members reach their career goals and improve their lives.
By Allison Harrison, MSW, Associate Director of ServicesÂ
Have you ever felt stuck in your career with low pay, limited opportunities that fit your needs or lack of advancement potential? You’re not alone.Â
“Between my physical health and the socioeconomic challenges I face, finding and keeping employment has been a challenge,” said Anastasia Wright, who has von Willebrand disease. “I had to withdraw from university because my body could not handle the many hours commuting required. The small town in which we live has a primarily physical labor-based job market, most of which do not pay enough to cover my medical expenses even if I was able to work with them.”
Wright’s story is one of many the HFA Services team (which runs the Helping Hands program) has heard over the course of 20+ years. Through our Helping Forward program, we seek to address these and other employment and financial challenges faced by the bleeding disorders community.
Helping Forward, started in 2019,Â addresses root causes of the financial insecurity our community members face year after year, empowering them to move forward from crisis into a sustainable future through career planning and financial management.
Through Helping Forward, HFA launched career planning and employment rights digital education courses on HFA Learning Central. Courses feature the voices of bleeding disorder community members, interactive activities and valuable information about how people with bleeding disorders and their caregivers can navigate career planning, job training, job searching, workplace issues and accommodations. (See the article in Dateline Federation, fall 2020, for more information on Helping Forward.)
Job Readiness Grants
In 2021, HFA offered its first round of Job Readiness Grants to provide community members with grants toward technical training or certification that supports applicants’ career goals in a field sustainable for them. AÂ technical skill is the practical ability and knowledge needed to perform a specific task. HFA distributed more than $7,000 in grants to 11 awardees.
Wright was one of the grant recipients. “This grant means a chance to move towards a career that is friendlier on my joints and allows me to help others and find a much more dependable source of income,” said Wright, who used the grant toward Russian language certification to pursue a career in translation and interpretation.
Osvaldo Vega, who has Factor V deficiency, was awarded a grant for an insurance adjuster course. “With this grant I will get certified and licensed as a state adjuster. Having this license will open many doors and opportunities for me,” said Vega, whose position in a different sector was cut in 2020 after 15 years with the same company. “At the same time, I will be an example to my son that no matter the circumstance or age, you can still learn and grow in a different area.”Â
Grant recipients are pursuing a variety of careers, including veterinary assistant, community association manager, peer support specialist and more. April Marie Driesse, who has hemophilia B, is pursuing certifications in network security. “As far as barriers go, the biggest one is financial,” Driesse said. “I am in a family of five people with low income. My fiancÃ©e is unemployed-he lost his job due to COVID-19-and I have two special needs children and a newborn. I have hemophilia and other conditions. I use all my income to pay for my bills or my children’s medical attention.”
Driesse is planning to land her dream job in cybersecurity, which will enable her to be part of an in-demand sector she is interested in and provide her family with financial stability. The Job Readiness Grant covered study guides and exam vouchers so she can complete certification exams that are stepping stones to more advanced cybersecurity certifications required for her dream job.Â
Rene Pimentel has been an assistant property manager for five years, but he hasn’t always had such stability. “One of the biggest barriers I have faced securing financial sustainability was finding employment that would allow me to either work remotely and/or miss a reasonable amount of days due to a bleed or hospitalization,” he stated in his application. “I have thankfully found a job that will allow me to take the necessary amount of time to recuperate and make sure I don’t sustain prolonged joint damage and/or pain. There are days I am unable to make it to work due to joint pain or a bleed and I am able to work remotely and still get all my property management work done.”Â
Pimentel’s grant is being used toward a certificate course that will allow him to take the state exam to get a community association manager license. “With that license, I can even open my own property management business and be financially independent. It’s always been a goal of mine to own and operate my own business, and this would be another step in that path,” he said.
HFA is inspired by the inaugural Job Readiness Grant recipients and honored to play a role in their work to overcome barriers and achieve their career and financial goals. Â
HFA plans to offer a second round of Job Readiness Grants in 2022 and (pending funding) offer webinars, peer networking spaces and additional digital education on topics related to career and financial planning. Watch HFA emails and social media to find out more.Â Thank you to Genentech for their support of Helping Forward and the Job Readiness Grants.
For more information, see www.hemophiliafed.org/helpingforward.