MJ Quilter took advantage of (almost) every service Charlotte Works offers in her seven-month job search.
“I became unemployed in January 2013. I went to Charlotte Works for three solid months and took every class offered,” she says. “It was uplifting when I was in a down time. It not only gave me additional tools and great networking, but also lifted my spirits because job-searching is tough.”
Among the workshops Quilter attended were information sessions for training through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), both classroom and on-the-job.
She targeted the restoration industry as the best place to showcase her existing skills and upgrade with new ones.
“I knew the insurance industry, property and homeowners – and understood the claims philosophy side of the business,” Quilter explains. “But I didn’t have a strong skill level in mitigation relating to fire, water, mold and smoke damage for monitoring and estimating, so I’m looking forward to gaining knowledge in that end of the business at Paul Davis Restoration.”
After attending the On-The-Job Training (OJT) information session, she spoke with OJT Manager Sheila Hemphill to learn if she would be a viable candidate for the program. “I explained what I wanted to achieve and what my skills are. She gave me very good guidance,” says Quilter. (OJT grants provide wage/salary reimbursement to employers to compensate for the costs associated with skills-upgrade training and/or the loss of production for new hires.)
“I updated my resume – I got great tips from the classes at Charlotte Works – and I targeted certain companies. I went out and pounded on the doors of restoration companies,” she says. “I asked to speak to the owner and explained to them what I could bring and what I wanted to gain and said ‘here’s why this is a benefit for you as a small business.’”
I’m back in the workforce, and the opportunity, if I had to look ahead, will be that I feel secure that I have a lot more to offer.
At the same time, Quilter also attended the WIA Classroom Training information session and subsequently enrolled in that program with Senior Training Coordinator Sylvia Jones. From May through July, she took seven courses at Central Piedmont Community College and earned certificates in business analysis and project management. She’ll sit for her PMP (Project Management Professional) certification exam by July 2014.
“This has been a great marriage,” says Quilter. “My project management background is primarily from a small business that I owned, so I’m able to bring those skills plus what I learned in the project management classes. My background, combined with these current grants, has really shown me what I can do.”
Quilter joined the staff of Paul Davis Restoration Company on July 29 as a project manager. It was one of four companies she’d pitched herself to before landing, and she gained approval for a six-month OJT contract with the company. Her OJT grant will take her through four different departments to gain a thorough knowledge of the business.
“Restoration is a hard industry to learn in six months, but MJ has certainly done a great job. She has performed every job position with Paul Davis Restoration, from project manager to water mitigation, mold remediation, hard and soft contents, to being an estimator on new losses,” says Abbie Bailey, owner of Paul Davis Restoration. “She’s always willing and wanting to learn something new. It’s not just one-sided, though – MJ has shared a lot of good ideas with our company. The benefits of this program have been win-wins all the way around.”
“What’s been really beneficial is that the owners have talked to me since I’ve started going through these stages [of training], and there’s a cost analysis position that supports all the project managers, and that’s what they’re aiming for me to step into,” she says. “At Paul Davis Restoration, I continue to gain the skills I lacked.”
And Quilter had an eye for her future when considering WIA training: “When I talked to Sheila, I told her I wanted to get overall experience in the mitigation industry, because if I wanted to go back into the insurance field, they now hire professional certified mitigation specialists, so I could tie my insurance background with my mitigation experience here and go into a specialty department. But I’ve enjoyed this end of the business so much that I want to stay here!”
She has nothing but praise for Charlotte Works and its staff. “The staff is all very friendly and make you feel comfortable. They made me feel like they really cared about me, which is important at that stage [of unemployment],” says Quilter. “What a little jewel for the Queen City! Did it take work? Absolutely. But I’d rather have this type of opportunity than sit around and be unemployed.”