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Job training grad rejoins workforce with new skills, confidence

Life’s recent challenges had left Elizabeth Davis feeling defeated.

As she was trying to reenter the workforce following a battle with cancer, flooding issues in Davis’ apartment ruined many of her clothes and furniture.

It would have been easy for her to give up on her job training program – several weeks of classes covering the ins and outs of the warehousing and supply chain industries.

But with the help of her family and staff at the Food Depository, Davis stuck with it. Earlier this year, she completed her programs with not only new skills and a new job; she also learned more about her ability to persevere.

“It made me realize, I can do this,” she said. “I just have to put it in my mindset, put it as a goal and accomplish it. Just knowing that someone is with you and rooting for you to do well and then you prove that you can do it, it’s beautiful.”

Davis, 51, is a graduate of the Food Depository’s Certified Logistics Associate training, which is part of the supply chain career path program. The program, which just celebrated its one-year anniversary, prepares unemployed or underemployed Cook County residents for skilled industry jobs.

In addition to classwork, students receive hands-on instruction with the Food Depository’s operations team. Students like Davis leave the program with certifications to operate forklifts, reach trucks and other warehouse equipment.

Davis, who lives on Chicago’s South Side, had worked a variety of jobs in childcare, home healthcare and retail before being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. It was a difficult period of her life, she said, because at the same time, she was helping care for her mother with dementia.

“I was kind of in denial about mine to stay focused and be there for her,” she explained.

Davis had a double mastectomy in 2015 and has been in remission for several years. But amid her health struggles, she wasn’t able to work.

“Since I’ve been remission, I wanted to get back in the job force, but I didn’t have skills,” Davis said. “I found out about the Food Depository, and it was just a great opportunity for me.”

She didn’t have much warehouse experience before starting the program. But Davis said that encouragement from the teachers and fellow students made even the challenging parts, like learning how to operate the warehouse machinery, easier to pick up.

Elizabeth Davis (far left) with her Certified Logistics Associate training program cohort. The program provides hands-on training for careers in the warehousing and supply chain industries.

For Davis, the support she received went far beyond education. As she faced her personal struggles, the Food Depository’s workforce development staff became a support system. Once she was able to move out of her water-damaged apartment, they referred her to a partner organization that offers clothing donations and connected her to a grant to purchase new furniture. That same grant paid for new tires for her car, giving her access to reliable transportation.

It’s a good feeling, Davis said, to have a team go “above and beyond” for your success.

“They tried to help me through it, guide me and then give me support,” she said. “Anything and everything they could do for me, they tried to do for me.”

After graduating, Davis was hired as an office agent for an airline at O’Hare International Airport, helping manage the various imports and exports that come through each day. Her newfound knowledge of warehouse operations, she said, makes it easier to navigate this new role.

Davis is also grateful be back in the workforce again – free of many of the barriers that once stood in her way.

“To be doing for myself and getting on my own career path…it feels great,” she said.

The Food Depository’s job training programs are designed to help students find work that offer a livable wage, benefits and opportunities for advancement. Learn more about the Food Depository’s job training programs

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