913.433.2100  |  Find Help  |  Send a prayer request

– by Ken Williams, President & CEO – Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas

Two years ago as I was sitting at a Wyandotte County Economic Development Council meeting, I was taken aback by the discussion. The business and industry leaders in the room were frustrated because they could not fill available jobs. In fact, 63% of Wyandotte County companies were hiring.

That sounded like great news to an agency like ours. Unfortunately, as we tried to match these jobs, we found that those we serve were not only underqualified, but they faced multiple and serious barriers to attaining the necessary education and training.

The challenge was on for Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas to create a program where we could help several people a year overcome absolutely everything that stands between them and real income. If we could do that, we could have a deep impact on poverty in the poorest county in Kansas. Kim Brabits, Vice-President, Program Operations, spearheaded a team to help develop what would become St. Rita’s Barrier Removal Center.

A planning grant from the Hall Family Foundation helped us research the problems in depth, design the program and evaluate its feasibility. The research team from Rockhurst University assisted us and found that there were 1,451 open positions among 200 companies surveyed. There were openings for machinists, welders, diesel mechanics, truck drivers and forklift operators – all jobs that demand trade certifications, but all paying between $40,000-$60,000 per year.

For the people we serve, those are life-changing wages, not just for them, but for their whole families. This fall, we are excited to partner with Kansas City Kansas Community College to launch the pilot program. For our first group of six students, I believe that their journey is just getting started.

Share This Story
More Stories

Read inspiring Hope Stories and see updates from our 30+ programs on our blog.

Join Our Newsletter

Sign up for our monthly newsletter to keep up to date with Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas. Sign up here.

Blog Categories

Related Stories

Community Engagement & Outreach

Our Shelves Are Close to Empty

More than 34 million people, including 10 million children, experience food insecurity in the United States. The USDA defines food insecurity as a lack of

Read More »

We help our neighbors in need move from a place of needing help to one of having hope.

Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas serves the most vulnerable men, women and children of all faiths across 21 counties. We provide innovative programs and solutions that stabilize and strengthen individuals and families to have hope for the future. Follow us to stay up to date.

Follow Us