A Sustainable Career
In 2018, Lacie enrolled in JARC’s Welding Program, after many years of struggling to find a sustainable job. Before JARC, Lacie had a career in Theater Arts, and got a Master degree in the same field. While working, she got her first experience of welding. However, she often was a victim of budget cuts, and her position was eliminated multiple times. “I went from job to job all over the country. I lived in like nine states during 12 years”.
Looking for a new opportunity, she moved to Chicago in 2014, where she faced the same reality: short term contracts and lack of stability. That’s when she met someone who used to work at JARC and encouraged her to get certified as a welder.
After getting into JARC’s Welding Program, she was able to apply to Medicaid and Food Stamps through the help of JARC’s Financial Opportunity Center. JARC was also able to provide her with a welding jacket, shoes and a respirator mask to help her build a new career as a welder. Lacie loved the hands on experience because it allowed her to improve her skills and also learn from her fellow trainees. “JARC has a welcoming environment, we’re all learning and no one’s better that anyone else and that’s really amazing, because we celebrate everyone else’s accomplishments”.
Once graduated, Lacie had some health uses that prevented her to starting her new welding position at Freedman Seating. After surgery on one of her hands, and two years of physical therapy, she was able to get finally start her career as a welder. She contacted James, our Director of Business and Workforce Services at JARC, and explained him that she was actively looking for a job. James helped her to connect with Freedman Seating again, who were happy to accept her back into their company at $17.00 an hour in February of 2022.
In December 2022, Lacie was promoted to “Intermediate Welder” in Freedman Seating, and started making $19 an hour. Getting a reliable job has also allowed her to enroll in a retirement plan: “I've never really had that opportunity before because my other companies didn't really provide those. Doesn't like starting retirement planning at 43, but better late than never”. Furthermore, she moved out from Rogers Park (where she lived for around five years) to Avondale, cutting down her commute to work drastically and allowing her to be closer to her family: “I was comfortable making that move, because now I have a reliable income”. She also mentioned is working on improving her credit card habits and she is taking care of her student loan.
In February 2023, she will accomplish her first year working at Freedman Seating. This will be her first time working for a full year in a company. Lacie is confident in her ability to overcome any obstacles. “James always tells me that I am one of the most resilient graduates he's ever experienced. And I guess I don't, It's just I didn't have any other choice”. After graduated from JARC, Lacie has found support from JARC several times, from job placement assistance to custom orthotics shoes.
Lacie is working for a brighter future, and one of her goals is to become a TIG Welder. “To anyone thinking about coming to JARC, I’d say absolutely do it, you have nothing to lose and so much to gain. The possibilities are endless, the doors that JARC opens is just amazing and the continued support system for graduates after the fact is really so appreciative”.