U.S. Department of Labor Grant Improves Cherokee Lives

Guest Commentary

Cherokee Nation citizen Stephen Clay has a story similar to a lot of Americans. Financially strained by the economy over the last few years, he was forced to close his business. His luck is now turning around though, thanks to a $3.7 million Department of Labor (DOL) grant awarded to the Cherokee Nation to help people like Stephen and other Cherokees in similar situations.

US DOLA year ago Stephen owned a small small-scale home construction firm. He struggled to make his business profitable and was finally forced to dissolve it. Sadly, that stress was also hard on his family and home life.

Stephen turned to Cherokee Nation’s Career Services for help finding something to support his four children. During his initial counseling session, career services representatives determined he was well suited for security guard training, and there is a high demand for certified employees in that field.

Because the tribe is partnering with DOL to administer the Job Drive National Emergency Grant, we were able to get Stephen the training he needed to secure a quality job. I’m happy to report that Stephen was recently hired as a full-time security guard at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa, a Cherokee Nation Businesses position that comes with benefits for him and his children.

Cherokee Nation was the only tribal government to join 32 other state governments in receiving the DOL’s Jobs Driven National Emergency Grant funding. We estimate more than 300 tribal citizens will receive vital training and be able to reenter the workforce through this program.

The best way to help our unemployed citizens is to help them get back to work as soon as possible. That’s why it is so important to equip Cherokee Nation citizens with the training and skill sets that employers in Oklahoma are searching for.

Principal Chief Bill John Baker

Principal Chief Bill John Baker

The tribe is partnering with area businesses and employers in the fields of health care, office support, education and construction to connect our citizens with quality jobs. For example, VIP Technology Solutions Group, a Tulsa-based telecommunications business that specializes in high quality voice and data business equipment, has hired five Cherokee employees in the past four months and will continue to hire more employees as their business grows.

Our goal is to find careers for as many tribal citizens as we possibly can in our 14-county jurisdiction. Teaching people the skill sets they need to secure good-paying jobs will not only benefit Cherokee families, but also bring business and commerce to our communities.

We are appreciative of the U.S. Department of Labor for having confidence in the Cherokee Nation to fulfill this role. Last month, we received notice that Cherokee Nation was also selected for funding of the Sector Partnership National Emergency Grant, which will help us expand our partnerships to develop strategies in workforce development.  It will also allow us to build on the successes we’ve enjoyed through the Job Drive National Emergency Grant.
The Cherokee Nation continues to play a key role in ensuring northeast Oklahoma remains competitive in the growing global economy.

To find out more about services available through this grant or more about Cherokee Nation Career Services, call 918-453-5555 or visit www.cherokeecareerconnections.com.

Bill John Baker is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

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