Community Foundation jobs program helps adults develop competitive employment skills

Magical things happen when a group of dedicated nonprofits come together to address an issue like underemployment in our Eastern Jackson County communities.

Last year, nearly 100 people improved their economic status by completing an in-demand certification program through the Truman Heartland Community Foundation Job Skills for New Careers initiative. Our strong partners in this initiative are crucial to its success.

Community Services League is our lead partner in this work. Building on their Bridges to Careers program, we have also engaged as partners the University of Central Missouri, Mid-Continent Public Library and Kansas City Scholars. The cities of Independence and Lee’s Summit also support our work and provide employer connections.

Our committed team of collaborative partners offers a personalized approach to adult education, helping adult learners develop competitive employment skills and overcome barriers to success. With their desire to create better lives for themselves and their families and quality training and exceptional wrap-around support, nearly 80% of last year’s Job Skills for New Careers graduates have remained employed in their field of study.

Cost is often the No. 1 barrier for adults to get industry-recognized training, certifications and higher education. Tuition costs can be more than $3,000, depending on the course of study. But building one’s personal assets through training is also the first way to get ahead and build personal wealth and savings.

Tuition assistance was made available by KC Scholars, while the University of Central Missouri, Metropolitan Community Colleges, and other providers offer high-quality, industry-recognized education. Job Skills for New Careers provides adult students an affordable way to open doors to new career options.

In 2022, 38 Community Foundation fund-holders made grants from their Donor Advised Fund at the foundation to our Job Skills for New Careers Initiative so we can provide more than $200,000 to Community Services League for both tuition payments and wrap-around services.

When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, it’s a challenge to put life on hold to acquire additional skills when you are trying to keep your family housed and fed. Wrap-around services provided by CSL include things like a gas card, auto repair, a rent or utility payment, or training supplies. They also include employment and financial coaching and a personal career assessment.

The goal is to work with each person’s unique situation and remove barriers to successfully completing the training. Truman Heartland Community Foundation support made possible by our fundholders is by design flexible and not restricted to any one aspect of the program. And because the personal support doesn’t end with graduation, our job skills students have a better chance of remaining employed in their chosen field.

Job Skills for New Careers offers professional certifications in certified nursing assistant, commercial driver’s license, medical coding and billing, phlebotomy, warehouse materials handling, forklift operations and welding. The key to the program is to offer coursework in areas of high demand, stackable certifications so people can continue to improve their skills, and a living wage of at least $16 an hour to start. The idea is to help people get into good-paying jobs that will create a more financially stable future for themselves and their families.

A recent graduate of the program, LaToya Surry, shared with us: “All my life growing up, I watched my mom work as a phlebotomist, and I always dreamed of becoming one too. I didn’t have the funds … and my life has had a lot of bumps in the road. But now, at the age of 41, I’m ready to make my dreams come true … I want to show my children that you’re never too old to go back to school and follow your dreams. Now that I am a phlebotomist, I got a job working at Community Blood Center; I make much more than I ever have in a warehouse job.”

LaToya’s story is familiar among the Job Skills grads: they dream of something more for themselves and their family, and Job Skills for New Careers helps them turn their dreams into reality.

Phil Hanson is the CEO and president of Truman Heartland Community Foundation. Reach him at If you are an employer or employment partner, contact Adam Kisler, vice-president of career services at Community Services League ( You can also visit for more information, to register for services, or to see when the next classes start.