A Second Chance
How do you graduate from college with a degree in Computer Engineering and end up driving a fork lift? That is exactly what happened to Cortheas Gatewood (Cortez). Growing up, Cortez was fascinated by technology. He still loves computers more than anything else in the world. He loves to takes them apart and fix them and he understands how they work. After he graduated from the University of Cincinnati with an engineering degree, Cortez started working as an IT contractor for Duke Energy. “I loved Duke. I sat a desk, answered the phone, helped fix computers and set up networks,” he remembers. “ I lived a normal life, had friends and went to retirement parties. That was perhaps the best years of my life.” Unfortunately his contract ran out and Cortez found himself out of a job.
Shortly after being laid off, Cortez was involved in a domestic violence incident and put on probation. To make matters worse, he was caught handling marijuana while on probation and sentenced to nine months in prison. When he got out of jail, alone and broke, he was grateful that Talbert House offered him assistance with finding an apartment and paying rent until he could find a job. Cortez worked odd jobs and spent hours on the Internet looking for stable employment. “I looked and looked for a good job as a computer engineer,” he says. “However, once the employer found out that I’d been in jail, they’d turn me down.” As rejections piled up, Cortez felt growing desperation. “I did not think I would ever be employed again,” he says. It was at that time that he received an email from Belflex, a local staffing firm telling him about LIFT the TriState, a free workforce development program offered by the Freestore Foodbank. It was meant specifically to help individuals like him who were struggling to find employment or faced significant barriers to entering the workforce. “LIFT the TriState offered hope at a time when I was running out of options,” Cortez says. “I was grateful to be given a second chance.”
Cortez called the Freestore Foodbank and enrolled in the program. “I was excited that this training would teach new skills which could help me find employment once again,” Cortez says. “My greatest desire was to become independent. I hated not being self-sufficient.” Cortez graduated from the program a few months later. Since then, he has been working as a contractor for Dillards. “When my contract at Dillards expires, I am confident that I’ll be able to find something else,” he says. “The certifications that I have acquired through LIFT give me an advantage. When I interview, most hiring managers are impressed by my certifications and they move me to the top of the list.” Cortez is grateful to LIFT for giving him a chance to start a fresh chapter in his life. “LIFT has given me a chance to be independent again. It has transformed me and I feel whole again,” he adds.
LIFT stands for Logistics, Inventory Management, Facilities Management and Transportation. The program offers an opportunity for unemployed and underemployed adults throughout the TriState region to become trained in a growing field, providing essential job skills. This 10-week free job training program based in Northern Kentucky provides hands-on training from experienced warehouse personnel at the Freestore Foodbank, specialized coursework designed by Gateway Community and Technical College, as well as links to local employment through BelFlex Staffing Network and other program partners.
For more information on how to apply click here.