Job-training program includes self-esteem boost

Apr 11, 2016

By Paul R. Pace, News staff

Social workers are known for having skills to help people overcome challenges.

Clifford Salmond, an alumnus of Project IOWA, speaks at the program’s most recent graduation ceremony. Project IOWA has developed a unique model to help those seeking employment address their self-concept and self-worth, which adds to their personal development.

There are also social workers who specialize in connecting people with one of life’s basic needs: a living-wage job that can boost self-worth. And Project IOWA is one of the places where you can find these social workers.

Project IOWA (Iowa Opportunities for Workforce Advancement), based in Des Moines, has a staff led by three master’s level social workers, including NASW member Julie Fugenschuh, Project IOWA’s executive director.

The nonprofit helps people with a high school degree or equivalent with job training for employment, and also focuses on increasing participants’ self-awareness, self-esteem and insight into workplace culture.

Fugenschuh said she is inspired by her job because the organization seeks to restore hope for those who have continually been told that they are unworthy or unvalued.

“I think every human has the right to feel valued and contribute to their community,” she said. “We just provide a road map to get there.”

Most Project IOWA participants are in the 26-45 age group and many have encountered multiple barriers that have prevented them from finding and retaining a livable-wage career, Fugenschuh explained.

Some of the barriers are generational poverty, criminal backgrounds, family issues, becoming a teen parent, mental health issues and a lack of skills and confidence, she said.

The program staff believes everyone has worth and value to contribute to the community and some just need guidance to uncover it and/or rediscover it.

“When we have communities in which all contribute and add value, everyone benefits,” said Fugenschuh, who has been with the organization since its inception in 2012.

From the April 2016 NASW News. NASW members can read the full story here.