The WorkSmart Network is a longstanding program at Madison College in conjunction with the Workforce Development Board that helps students who have been out of school or trying to overcome a variety of challenges get resources. WorkSmart helps people with career exploration, job searching, financial assistance with school and other resources.
Longtime coach, counselor and nonprofit leader Jamaal Eubanks joined the team in May 2018. Eubanks, who has been running a program called Fuel or Crutch for several years, has brought to the table his unique message along with his connections to schools all over the city.
Eubanks’ message has always about seizing the opportunity to overcome adversity and to remove barriers (including internal ones) to prosperity. It is a message he has shared with countless youths over the years.
The WorkSmart program is literally a program that’s about removing barriers. For some students that means receiving a couple of thousand dollars for tuition, or even for transportation to and from school, or child care while they’re in school. For others, it is providing the tutoring that they need in order to achieve their degree.
“I thought it was one of the best things that I’ve heard of,” Eubanks told Madison365 about why he decided to dedicate his time to helping people go through the program. “Especially since I’m super interested in eliminating barriers so people can access things to make their lives better.”
Eubanks says he currently has about 100 students on his caseload, which consists primarily of out-of-school youths age 15-24. It’s a diverse set of students and Eubanks said that each student has their own unique challenges to overcome.
“If you’re pregnant or parenting, if you have a special ed need with IEP documentation, a police record, are low income or just basic skills deficient, it runs the full gamut,” Eubanks said.
Students who are in need of basic skills are provided with things like tutoring to help them get to a level where they can succeed or even receive a technical diploma (which would help them earn a living wage).
Madison College has robust services in place for special ed students, and if students have had an IEP they are able to get specialized support accommodations.
While there are a lot of students on Eubanks’ caseload at one time, they are not all in the same stage of completing their educations. Some students have been graduating but others have struggled and needed additional help.
“Each semester I’ve had students graduate but I’ve also had students fall off the wagon and that hindered their progression,” he said. “But we’re continuing to work with them to get them back on track academically or finding them employment or figuring out a way to get them a tutor, or helping them with time management. Just a holistic approach.”
After someone completes the program WorkSmart staff continue to be in touch with that person for at least a year to see if they need any further support.
Eubanks has been using his connections to local high schools to identify students who might need the service.
“I brought into the program the connections to high schools and reaching out to some of the students finishing high school that counselors or teachers knew need support to keep them going or keep them on top of things,” he said. “That was something that wasn’t quite as strong when I first took the position.”
The program runs year-round in order to be available to as many students as possible.
“After people complete the program we help them find a job but then we have a year follow up service for support whether it’s resume revision or seeing if they’re working full time. If they need more from us,” he said. “I feel like the more exposure the community has to it, the more we can put it out there to people to earn that living wage that can be a hurdle here in Madison.”
Anyone interested in being a part of the program can contact the Career and Employment Services Office at Madison College at 608-243-4598 or go online here.