GCO's BETTER WORK program partners with Jobs for Life to empower people to pursue meaningful work that brings purpose, belonging, and upward mobility.

BETTER WORK and Jobs for Life: Giving Georgians a Path to Find Purpose and Possibility in Work

by | BETTER WORK, Blog stories | 0 comments

Key Points

  • GCO’s BETTER WORK program partners with Jobs for Life to offer community-based job-training classes that help people build the skills, mindset, and confidence to pursue long-term, stable employment.
  • BETTER WORK and Jobs for Life are a powerful pair because both programs believe that every person has an inherent dignity and value. Together, these programs focus on helping people realize their worth, build purpose-filled lives, and find support and community.
  • The impact of this partnership shines in the success stories of participants like Quendasia and Tiarra, who found a renewed sense of purpose and vocation through the Jobs for Life class.

Quendasia’s life was changed forever when she was seriously injured in a car crash several years ago. The accident left her with a traumatic brain injury that made returning to work a challenge. She spent five years struggling with unemployment before hearing about the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) BETTER WORK program—and its partnership with Jobs for Life.

Like many job-seekers, Quendasia discovered BETTER WORK in a moment of crisis or urgent need. And because GCO prioritizes building a network of community resources and employer partners, we were able to help her find support for her immediate needs.

But part of what makes BETTER WORK unique—and effective—is that we help people move from crisis into developing connections and a fresh mindset to pursue long-term, stable work. This is where BETTER WORK and Jobs for Life (JFL) came alongside Quendasia to help her envision and pursue a professional path that was so much more than just a paycheck.

This gets to the heartbeat of GCO—to remove barriers to opportunity and foster thriving communities in which everyone can achieve their fullest potential. Work is a key piece of the puzzle—not only because it unlocks economic mobility, but also because it empowers people to find fulfillment in a sense of personal and collective purpose, structured routines, and relationships that lead to belonging and support.

Together, BETTER WORK and Jobs for Life empower people to see that they have a valuable place in their communities and can make unique contributions through work. 

Together, BETTER WORK and Jobs for Life empower people to see that they have a valuable place in their communities and can make unique contributions through work. 

Back in 2022, we recognized that the focus of our BETTER WORK initiative strongly aligned with the vision and values of Jobs for Life, a network of job-training groups available through churches and nonprofit organizations that break down barriers to work. Originally launched in 1996 in Raleigh, North Carolina, JFL is now available in more than 300 cities nationwide.

This shared vision led to a collaboration with the power to transform the lives of individuals, families, and whole communities.

In Columbus, which is home to one of our BETTER WORK chapters, we partner with Jobs for Life to offer an 11-week course that pairs participants with a one-on-one mentor. JFL’s curriculum has the benefit of incorporating essential skill training and behavioral development into its model. Each class provides two hours of instruction in soft skills, discussions on the importance of work in daily life, and exercises in character development.

Back to Quendasia’s story. 

Prior to coming to Jobs for Life, she had a GED and she was planning to go to college. Through JFL, she honed practical and essential work skills—like how to interact with others and show up on time. These details seem small, but they are often the tools people need most to capably and confidently pursue meaningful work and realize their inherent personal value. 

“Jobs for Life got my mind back on track for working. I met different people and learned different skills,” Quendasia shared. “Before Jobs for Life, I didn’t feel confident enough to get a job. I didn’t really believe in myself. But now I know I can do it.”

BETTER WORK's Jobs for Life class connects participants to community resources to support their journey toward meaningful work.

BETTER WORK’s Jobs for Life class in Columbus, GA, introduces participants to community resources and champions that offer support on their journeys to pursuing long-term, meaningful work. 

The discovery of personal potential and worth is at the heart of BETTER WORK and Jobs for Life. Both programs share the core belief that everyone has an inherent, God-given dignity worthy of recognition and respect. Through their shared focus on relational support, human connections, and community, BETTER WORK and Jobs for Life empower people to see that they have a valuable place in their communities and can make unique contributions through work. 

Today, Quendasia works at Piedmont Healthcare—an opportunity she never would have had without the support and networking she found through JFL.

The BETTER WORK partnership with Jobs for Life allows GCO to leverage our existing network of employers, community leaders, and resource providers to make JFL classes even more successful for the local churches and organizations that choose to host and sponsor the training in a BETTER WORK community.

Take one more example. Recently, Tiarra connected with BETTER WORK through our partnership with the Jobs for Life program. She was looking for new opportunities at a job fair after losing her job.

“The class pushed me even further,” Tiarra said. “I wouldn’t have ever found my mentor or the job I’m in right now. I love all the teachers. Every lesson was a blessing,” 

Today, Tiarra is at Troy University online school working toward a bachelor’s degree in social work. “I used to live in fear, and now I embrace challenges and try to work through them instead of shying away from them,” she added.

Across the nation, the need for programs like BETTER WORK and Jobs for Life is significant: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of February 2024, nearly 6.5 million Americans were unemployed, 22 million were underemployed, and 80% of workers were disengaged. 

These numbers can seem overwhelming and even impossible to change. But that only becomes true when we forget that the biggest differences start close to home. 

When it comes to empowering vibrant communities and upward mobility, the most important place to start is at the community level. That’s what BETTER WORK and Jobs for Life are built for. Quendasia and Tiarra’s stories are testimonies to the good that can come when mission-aligned programs like BETTER WORK and Jobs for Life work together to build hope and opportunities in the places where people need them most—in the communities where everyday lives are lived.

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