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Program created by MSU professors helps groups who struggle to find employment

The Michigan Employment Clinic is targeted towards people who are disabled or have criminal records.
Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 7:07 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - A new program at Michigan State University (MSU) helps people who are disabled or have criminal records in finding employment. It is the only program of its kind in mid-Michigan that targets both groups.

The project came to be because two Michigan State researchers realized that the pandemic made it harder for people, especially those with criminal pasts or disabilities, to get jobs. Soon the idea of 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 serves the general public for people who are trying to find a job,” Hickox said. “But for people with disabilities or a criminal record, there’s some additional circumstances that they face that they have to overcome.”

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

“This program has helped me open up more to my peers and learning about work experiences and it has helped me become more confident in myself,” Montoya said. “And to be aware that having a disability doesn’t affect us, but we just have different ways of learning.”

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

Kristen D’Souza is a Cornell student who is interning for the Michigan Employment Clinic.

D’Souza said, “It’s definitely a collaboration between us and them and they’re very excited and willing to share things about their past experience so that they can put their best foot forward basically and have the best resume possible.”

Local Lansing groups Northwest Initiative and Spartan Fair Chance are helping too, 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 that has the opportunity. I’ve really enjoyed being part of the program. It’s been helpful for me because I’m really shy from the outside, but getting to know more people, I get to experience what life is like around me.”

The clinic has served close to 75 people so far, and those clients continue to receive support once they get a job.

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

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