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Promise Team Spotlight - Sarah Klerk

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Sarah Klerk

The sun is out, the weather is warm, and KzooConnect is back with another Promise Team Spotlight! Let’s get to know Sarah Klerk, The Kalamazoo Promise’s (The Promise) Director of Business Collaboration.

Before joining The Promise in 2017, Klerk worked in workforce development as a Senior Policy Associate at Corporation for a Skilled Workforce (CSW). At CSW Sarah focused, in part, on helping align education and training programs with regional business demand. When it was time to finally return to Kalamazoo, Klerk was ready to apply all that she had learned working nationally to benefiting the lives of Promise Scholars locally.

Since her arrival, Klerk has worked to develop relationships with workforce development partners and businesses to help create concrete opportunities for businesses to work with students in high school, post-secondary, and even those students who have stopped out of college.

“In many cases, both locally and nationally, business partners are eager to work with students to give back and to help develop the local talent pipeline, but they don’t know how to do that efficiently and sometimes effectively,” she said.

To this end, The Promise, in partnership with Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) and workforce providers are collaborating to connect Kalamazoo Promise Scholars (i.e. future Promise recipients, Promise recipients, Promise alumni) with work readiness, career exposure, and employment opportunities that align with the needs of area employers.

“We are working to ensure that Good Jobs that pay living wages are accessible to all work ready Promise Scholars, leading to financial independence,” she said.

The Manufacturing Pipeline Program, an initiative that KzooConnect covered in a recent blog post, is one such opportunity that Klerk has worked with KPS to help create and grow.

“The business partners look at this as an opportunity to develop local talent, even if the students don’t stick with manufacturing. Mentors in the program seem to really enjoy working with students, and the students are enjoying the exposure to the world of work,” she said.

The Manufacturing Pipeline Program was based on something that Mann+Hummel was doing and at their suggestion The Promise expanded the program to work with four additional employers.

“Working in Kalamazoo has been amazing. The business community is extremely interested in supporting students which makes my job exciting, and dare I say ‘fun’,” Klerk stated.

In addition to the Manufacturing Pipeline Program, Klerk also facilitates a business collaboration known as the Kalamazoo Technology Training Partnership (KTTP).

The KTTP is made up of six business partners from different industries that share a need for entry-level technology workers.

“This group of employers is focused on creating a more robust and diverse IT community and is committed to providing Promise Scholars with training that will lead to Good Jobs in partnering companies.”

“My 10-year goal is to see far more Promise Alumni employed and in leadership positions in our community. We are just about to launch a 'Promise2Promise' network that will help enable Promise Alumni and business partners to more easily connect with Promise Scholars. We know Promise Alumni want to give back, and pay it forward, and what better way to give back then to help connect Promise Scholars to work experiences and Good Jobs right here in Kalamazoo.”

Klerk relishes any opportunity to connect Promise Scholars with businesses and has a message for any company that would be interested in exposing Promise Scholars to potential career paths:

“We are always looking for new relationships within our business community. If your company is looking for ways to engage with students, I would love to hear from you. Give me a call and we will see how we can connect you!”

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