Unskilled Workers Need Not Apply

We know that access to housing that’s affordable is essential for low and moderate income families and individuals. But for many, additional supports are needed to help them increase their confidence and achieve a greater level of independence. Having a job that pays a living wage with opportunities to grow and advance are key elements of those steps to self-sufficiency. People need housing that’s affordable as well as access to training and employment skills for 21st century jobs.

Through Training Futures, a nationally recognized workforce development program, Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS) has helped individuals who are under-employed or unemployed secure a rewarding career, potential for professional advancement, and permanent employment. Read the story about Ana to understand this program’s transformational impact on her life and that of her children.

Ana, a young mother of four, was struggling to make ends meet. Her story starts out like so many young, single mothers’: She felt stuck, working low-wage, service-industry jobs, barely able to pay the rent and buy food for her kids, but unsure of how to achieve something different. She lived in fear of something happening – a child getting sick, her car breaking down – because she knew she was one incident away from homelessness. Yet, what set Ana apart from many stories like hers was a series of critical interventions and her own determination to achieve something different for herself and her kids.

Ana’s first break was a housing voucher she secured with the help of a case manager. Obtaining the voucher allowed Ana to focus on training or education needed to break into a higher wage job. Ana seized the opportunity to learn a valuable skill and leave the food industry. Through her child’s Early Head Start school, Ana learned about an innovative training program at Northern Virginia Family Service called Training Futures. The six-month training program taught in-demand digital and administrative skills, offered 18 college credits and a Career Studies Certificate from Northern Virginia Community College, and an internship. One of the most significant features of the program was Training Futures’ simulated business environment where participants are held to high, corporate expectations within the context of a supportive, training environment, providing a confidence that translated into greater likelihood of success in securing a permanent job.


Taking advantage of the training opportunity, Ana stood out, carrying herself with purpose and drive, and was unafraid to ask questions or share insights. With the assistance of the training staff, she successfully completed the program, and within two weeks of graduation, Ana secured a full-time position as an administrative assistant with a family business. In her new position, Ana is earning 56 percent more in salary (and full benefits) than her previous job.

Perhaps even more importantly, her employer immediately recognized her potential and began training her in QuickBooks and other software critical to office management. Now, with meaningful, professional employment, Ana continues to gain confidence and increase her earning potential. She is solidly on the pathway to self-sufficiency. Most importantly, Ana recently reported, “I’m not afraid anymore. I have peace of mind. I can buy my kids new shoes. We even go out to dinner sometimes. The other day, my car broke down and I took it to the garage without even worrying. This is a whole different life. I’m so happy.”

Ana’s new life brings important generational change as well. With a 40 hr work schedule Monday through Friday, Ana can be home with her children in the evenings and weekends. She is confident enough in her skills to help them with their homework. Due to here successful experience in the community college system, she is more likely to encourage her children to seek post-secondary credentials as well. These outcomes are invaluable to building thriving communities. Ana’s success would not have been possible without her own dogged determination and public support of important housing and training programs.

To create successful, sustainable communities, people need options for housing that is safe, decent and affordable, and access to training for skills to compete and obtain jobs with a living wage and opportunity for advancement. We salute our partner, Northern Virginia Family Service, for expanding employment opportunities that allow families to keep and maintain their housing and create a brighter future for households throughout NoVA!