SAN ANTONIO — Shanta Jackson, a San Antonio mother of three, was one of more than 800 people who preregistered for the city's Ready to Work program before online enrollment opened up in May.
Nearly three months later, she's still wondering when she’ll begin classes.
“It is frustrating, because I do want it to go quick like that,” Shanta said.
Jackson works around the clock to support her children and ailing mother, in order to keep a roof over their head and food on the table. She admits it’s exhausting, but necessary.
“I do work Shift Mart and just different little temp agency jobs to try and make ends meet,” Jackson said.
She's currently coordinating with a case worker who’s part of the Ready to Work program, so she can eventually enroll. While keeping patient as can be, Jackson hopes something can be done to speed up the process.
“I do want to go higher in the medical field, or any kind of field, just to be able to be stable,” Jackson said, adding she hopes to achieve at least an associate degree.
More than 4,800 people have signed up for the city’s $200 million Ready to Work program, which is being paid for by a one-eighth-cent, voter-approved sales tax through 2025.
The goal is to provide training and education for 28,000 low-income individuals over the next several years, preparing them for in-demand, high-paying jobs in a variety of fields, including construction, cybersecurity and transportation services.
Ready to Work offers a variety of certification courses and opportunities to earn bachelor's degrees.
“It takes some time from the time an individual applies,” said Michael Ramsey, executive director of the San Antonio Workforce Development Office.
Ramsey noted the intake process to determine eligibility typically takes between 30 to 45 days. Then, the applicants can expect to take another month working with case workers on assessing strengths and weaknesses as it relates to potential job fields.
The goal of this step is to figure out a desired career path before enrolling in the job training portion of the program, which varies in length depending on the chosen profession.
A work in progress
The city is partnered with Project Quest, Workforce Solutions Alamo, Alamo Colleges District and Restore Education to facilitate the training and education.
“A few of our agencies aren’t at 100% capacity yet, but they’re rapidly progressing toward being at 100% staffed in order to ensure that wait time is cut down between the time they apply to the time they’re actually in the program,” Ramsey said.
Six people have completed the Ready to Work program so far, most of whom received their CDL. One of the graduates has secured employment working with a local construction company.
By the end of August, Ramsey says, an online dashboard will be available for the public to monitor the progress of Ready to Work.
“We want to be accountable and transparent and share our successes and celebrate those and share our challenges and solicit help from the community to overcome those challenges as we find them,” he said.
While acknowledging the lengthy enrollment process, Ramsey deems Ready to Work and the results up until this point to be a success.
Meantime, Jackson is looking forward to achieving her dreams and providing a better life for her family. She has a meeting with her case worker in a couple weeks.
“My family depends on me," she said. "I guess it’s just going to be a waiting game and stuff, but I don’t want to miss out on the opportunity."
To learn more about Ready to Work, including eligibility requirements and how to sign up, go here.