Skills2Work is a program built on belief – a deep belief – in the women who are working hard to learn the career training skills needed to help them become and stay employed.

That belief was there at the beginning, in 2019, when the Portland, Oregon, nonprofit Human Solutions launched Skills2Work with a $120,000 grant from KeyBank. And that belief has helped sustain the program, which assists women preparing to enter the job market with training workshops featuring a proven, evidence-based curriculum.

Traditional employment services often don’t meet the needs of those with the most barriers to success, and Human Solutions saw a need for this unique program to reach women who require basic skills before they can succeed in standard job programs.

The program aims to help give these women not only job skills, but, just as important, the confidence they need to achieve their goals as well.

“A big thank you for seeing the importance of each one of us and putting faith in our ability to be contributing members of the community. It is with gratitude and strength, gained through the skills learned in our class, that we plan to make our contribution to society.” – Jayne, Skills2Work graduate

“At KeyBank, we know that a secure job is the gateway to a solid financial future, and Human Solutions’ proven programs have successfully helped participants secure living wage jobs and build sustainable career pathways,” said Michelle Weisenbach, President of KeyBank in Oregon and SW Washington. “Our mission at Key is to help our communities thrive, and supporting Human Solutions as it expands job training is very much on target with our philanthropic goals.”

Since 1988, Human Solutions has helped thousands of families escape poverty and homelessness. The help it offers community members includes affordable housing, career support, homeless services, housing stability, utility assistance and trauma-informed care.

Program metrics for Skills2Work are impressive: 70% of employment services participants are employed when they exit services, and 70% of these are still employed one year later, with 60% of those employed in career-track positions.

And importantly, they report that the incomes of 35% of participants have increased in the first year of employment, helping these women get back on their feet and feel the pride of a regular, living-wage paycheck that puts them on the road to financial wellness.

The program was designed so that Human Solutions employment specialists would work with residents of their two emergency shelters and several affordable housing communities who are ready to take this first step toward finding employment.

“Access to family-wage jobs is the cornerstone of any community, and we deeply appreciate KeyBank’s investment to help people in our area develop the career readiness skills, hope and confidence they need to succeed,” said Andy Miller, Human Solutions Executive Director. “It’s exciting to work with people living in our shelters in this way, meeting them literally and figuratively where they are. We can see already how offering training, resources and personal support through a trauma-informed lens is exactly right.”

The first class of 13 women from the Gresham Women’s Shelter graduated in September 2019.

It was the first of six Skills2Work workshops that Human Solutions had planned to provide each year of the two-year project, serving 12 individuals in each, for a total of 72.

Jayne, a member of the first Skills2Work class, spoke for her classmates on an emotional graduation day and called out the program’s creators for their belief in the women.

“A big thank you for seeing the importance of each one of us and putting faith in our ability to be contributing members of the community,” she said. “It is with gratitude and strength, gained through the skills learned in our class, that we plan to make our contribution to society.”