Taking the Next Steps

Thursday, December 15, 2016


Contributor: Michelle Devine Giese, President of STEP Industries

STEP Industries is a non-profit organization that employs people who are in recovery from substance addiction in its contract packaging business. The agency provides job skills training as well as education around life skills so employees earn while they learn. In 2015, STEP Industries provided 136,323 hours of skills training for 347 employees who also earned $1,073,745 in wages. United Way has recently given STEP Industries an innovative grant to develop a Vocational Training Center.
STEP Industries provides a supportive environment for men and women taking the next steps in their recovery. We provide sober living, job and soft skills training, and an opportunity to gain confidence in a new way of life.

Although this is an important mission, we were inspired to offer more opportunities after attending the Dare to Dream event at Fox Valley Technical College. We felt there must be more that we can do to help people, who have barriers to obtaining higher education, break through and succeed.

We talked with our participants and conducted surveys to ask what they needed help with to move to the next step in their lives. We decided we were going to build a learning center where people could feel comfortable talking about their past and get help navigating their future. We found they wanted help with résumé writing, interviewing skills, and figuring out what they wanted to do, or could do, for a career. We started talking to organizations that could help us help them. Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) was excited to help. Within weeks we had built a room, had tables and chairs, and were setting up computers.

With help from United Way Fox Cities, through an innovative grant, we have been able to hire a coordinator to work with our people on their goals, set up trainings, connect with resources in the community, and teach various classes right here where the participants already feel safe.

Last month, with the help of FVTC, we held a three-day career development class. From this class, we have three people enrolled in educational programs. This month, we have a three-day LEAN training with 11 participants being taught by FVTC and a résumé preparation and writing class. We are thrilled with the excitement and participation so far, but this is only the beginning. I look forward to sharing our progress with you in the future.