Enactus Changing Lives Through a Job Readiness Initiative

Mount Mercy University’s Enactus club is changing the lives of disadvantaged women in eastern Iowa through a job readiness initiative called EmpowHer.

The student-led program offers educational opportunities to women through the Catherine McAuley Center (CMC), helping them gain the skills needed to find employment. EmpowHer covers topics like resume building, cover letters, creating business cards, proper attire and what to expect during a job search. Each year 10-15 women are invited to go through the free program, and the results are staggering.

“What we hear over and over again is that it creates confidence, in both the women and the students, and makes everyone involved feel they have value,” said Dr. Nate Klein, assistant professor of business and advisor to Enactus.

Though Cedar Rapids boasts a 3.6 percent unemployment rate as of December 2015—1.2 percentage points below the national average—the rate of unemployment in the CMC Transitional Housing Program is 78 percent.

EmpowHer’s work is making a noticeable difference, though. Since sessions began in 2012, 90 percent of the participants have gained employment or enrolled in college.

To ensure EmpowHer’s continued success, two workshops were added this year: mock interviewing and entrepreneurship.

During the mock interview session, human resource professionals who hired previous EmpowHer graduates joined the group. The women practice newly learned skills in a setting much like they would find at a true interview.

Photo of Students Conducting Mock Interviews
Students use mock interviews as a tool to empower women in the job application process.

Also new this year, the entrepreneurial workshop covers basic business topics for women who aim to start a venture of their own.

“They have expanded the program from simple workshop lessons in the first year, to today, deeply engaging residents and providing individualized feedback,” said Tina Gossman, volunteer coordinator for Catherine McAuley Center. “Most importantly, Enactus has allowed residents to practice these skills in a constructive, supportive environment, which is an important component for women who are overcoming past trauma.”

Members of Enactus said the program is only going to grow from here. The team is optimistic that they can branch out into the community to reach more women in need of the skills EmpowHer can teach them.

“I am proud to be a part of this,” said Macy DeMeulenaere, senior psychology major and vice president of projects for Enactus. “It’s inspiring to see the impact we can have on these women’s lives.”

Written by Samantha Wilson ’16