New MSU program helping groups struggling to find employment

LANSING, Mich. (WILX) – A new program at Michigan State University (MSU) is helping people with disabilities or with criminal records find employment. It is the only program of its kind in central Michigan that targets both groups.

The project came about because two researchers in the state of Michigan realized that the pandemic was making it more difficult for people, especially those with a criminal background or a disability, to get a job. Soon, the idea for the Michigan Employment Clinic came to fruition.

Stacy Hickox is an MSU professor who founded the Michigan Employment Clinic with her colleague, Dr. Connie Sung.

“Places like Michigan Works serve the general public for people trying to find jobs,” Hickox said. “But for people with disabilities or with a criminal record, there are additional circumstances they face and need to overcome.”

Hickox and Sung were passionate about creating a more diverse workforce to help these groups of people overcome obstacles. Mirna Montoya is one of their clients.

“This program has helped me open up more to my peers and learn from work experiences and it has helped me gain more self-confidence,” said Montoya. “And to be aware that having a disability doesn’t affect us, but we just have different ways of learning.”

Clients like Mirna go on a Zoom call and share whatever kind of work they want. Then, they learn how to prepare their resumes, find job leads and practice interviews. The program has interns to work with them on these skills.

Kristen D’Souza is a Cornell student who is an intern at the Michigan Employment Clinic.

D’Souza said: “It’s definitely a collaboration between us and them and they are very excited and willing to share things about their past experience so that they can do their best and have the best CV they can.”

Local groups from the Lansing Northwest Initiative and Spartan Fair Chance are also helping, teaching employers how they can benefit from the clinic by learning more about the legal requirements for diverse hiring and the benefits of hiring people from these groups.

Montoya said: “I would recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity. I really enjoyed being a part of the program. It was helpful to me because I am really shy on the outside, but by getting to know more people, I have the opportunity to experience what life is like around me.

The clinic has served nearly 75 people so far, and these clients continue to receive support once they find employment.

They also hope to go from an online-only clinic to an in-person clinic one day. The Michigan Employment Clinic website can be SEE HERE.

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