The first thing on many CASES participants’ minds when they begin services is finding a secure job. Precious Jones wants them to think bigger.
“I don’t want them to get a job. I want them to get a career,” said Precious, CASES’ Credentials Specialist. “I want them to see all the opportunities they have for a real career and create a pathway for them to get there.”
Credentialing is a formalized process that assesses a person’s qualifications for a specific trade. These qualifications are often developed and evaluated through training and testing in accredited programs that can be done at a person’s own pace. Credentialing can be an effective way to attain skills for people who don’t benefit from a traditional classroom setting.
Precious, who started working at CASES in December 2020, describes herself as one of those people.
“Not everybody is designed for college. Myself, I’m a hands-on learner—I prefer teaching myself. Classrooms are not for everyone,” she said. “With credentialing, we have this opportunity for people to learn a tactical skillset outside of that setting—skills in trades that can make a lot of money.”
These trades are in a wide array of industries, including solar panel installation, pharmacy technology, graphic design, information technology, real estate, and early childhood development in addition to the more widely known food hander’s licensing and OSHA 30 credentials. Often, Precious said, participants have no idea of the range of jobs available through credentialing.
“I want them to see all their options. I want to give them opportunities,” she said. “They’re never going to go down a path if they don’t know it’s there—we have to show them all the careers that are available to them.”
Participants enter CASES’ credentialing services through referrals from other CASES programs. The majority are referred from Education, Career & Enrichment (ECE) Services programs, including alternatives to incarceration (ATIs). Precious can relate to her participants in this way, too.
“I was a youth with a troubled background. I was running the streets, doing everything I wasn’t supposed to,” she said. It was then she stumbled across a job where she began working with people involved in the criminal legal and other systems through theater performances at jail, detentions, and homeless shelters. With support from her coworkers, she realized she had found her calling.
“There were all these people who really saw me, when I’d felt like no one had ever really seen me before. They were adamant about loving me until I loved myself,” she said. “It opened up so many doors for me. I fell in love with it because I was able to work with people like me and give them the same opportunities I got, opportunities that society wasn’t giving them.”
Now, Precious is trying to do the same for her CASES participants. Once participants sign up, she begins to work with them one-on-one to help them discover what they’re passionate about and connect them with the relevant credentialing program. Once they begin the program, Precious checks in with them regularly to make sure they’re progressing on track.
“One of my credentialing participants, his name is Shawn,* and the first conversation I had with him, I told him, ‘You are me and I am you.’ He had faced so much adversity, but he was still saying, ‘I want to do good. I know what my past is, and I don’t want it to be my present or my future,’” she described.
“When I was young, I was told to ‘love yourself, and pay it forward.’ And I never got it, until I started to love myself. Now that’s what I’m doing for them.”