United Way

Rising STAR: JobSTAR Adds New Cohort, New Success Coach

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by Ken Toll

Just 17 months ago, I had the honor of leading the announcement of JobSTAR, Jackson County’s new business resource network. It was an exciting day!

I remember how proud I was of the partnership that formed JobSTAR—the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Works! Southeast, the Department of Health and Human Services, Family Service & Children’s Aid, and United Way of Jackson County. I recall how strong that start was, with eight local employers taking part. And I can’t forget introducing Scott Walker, JobSTAR’s Success Coach, and the enthusiasm he brought to his new role.

Today I’m experiencing all of those upbeat feelings again!

I’m thrilled to announce that four more employers are joining JobSTAR’s original eight. The new arrivals are US Staffing, Jackson Public Schools, Western Public Schools, and the County of Jackson. They’re standing alongside Industrial Steel Treating, Melling Tool, Michigan Automotive Compressor Inc. (MACI), Jackson County ISD, Lifeways Community Mental Health, John George Home, Jackson Friendly Home, and United Way’s Program Assistance Center.

We have another addition, too. Joining Scott as a newly christened Success Coach is Kristen Pryor, who comes to the team having worked with DDHS’s legal affairs. Like Scott, she will work onsite for several of our JobSTAR employers.

JobSTAR embeds a Success Coach at participating businesses who can connect workers with services and support programs across an array of challenges. Employees connect with the Success Coach confidentially. Assistance aims at removing barriers that hurt many people’s efforts to work regularly and effectively. The Success Coach role is funded by sponsoring partners and participating businesses.

I couldn’t be more excited over JobSTAR’s growth! Jackson County is rich in talented people who are eager to work. But sometimes life gets in the way—a sick child, a broken car, financial debt, a struggle with emotional illness or substance use, just to name a few. JobSTAR helps workers through those tough times and help them regain their lives. That benefits business by ensuring a steadier, more productive workforce.

So far this year alone, JobSTAR has served 283 people, providing 434 critical services—from transportation and auto repair to emergency childcare and career counseling. Any one of the needs tackled could have kept an employee from working. In fact, for those receiving help in transportation, we know of nine people who are still able to get to work and remain employed. For those who got help with housing issues, we know of 12 people who were able to stay on the job because of JobSTAR.

JobSTAR is a key element in United Way’s work to eliminate poverty and help all people reach financial stability. I’m more optimistic than ever that we’ll see that day in Jackson County!

Ken Toll is President and CEO of United Way of Jackson County.