By Carrie Haderlie
(Photo Above: Aubrey Jones, who lives and works in Rock Springs, said that her life is completely different than it was three years ago before she became a Climb graduate.)
Rawlins, WY–For women across the state, Climb Wyoming has been making a difference for 35 years. In Laramie, graduating from Climb programs results in a woman’s average monthly wages doubling two years after the program. In Casper, graduates triple their access to private health insurance after the program, and in the Sweetwater area, 94% of participants complete the program.
“We have been able to work with 10,000 families over the last decades and see the impact that the program has had on poverty in Wyoming,” said Climb’s incoming CEO Katie Hogarty, who lives in Laramie, summer at an event celebrating the organization’s 35th anniversary this past summer. In all, Climb has saved the state of Wyoming $117 million over the past 35 years from decreased dependence on public assistance programs among graduates.
It also has helped 10,000 families and 20,000 kids and contributed 44 million hours of work to Wyoming’s economy by Climb graduates. Climb has offered 250 training programs in industries that meet Wyoming’s workforce needs.
Aubrey Jones, who lives and works in Rock Springs, said that her life is completely different than it was three years ago before she became a Climb graduate. “My salary is almost has more than tripled. I have a 401k, a health savings account,” Jones said.
“I’m able to buy Christmas presents without even thinking about it. I can fill my tank up with gas without worrying about it. It is those little things I used to be scared of because I never had any savings.”
Climb Wyoming’s Sweetwater Area Program Director Brittany Gray explained that programs can be tailored to a specific community’s workforce needs.
“In the particular moment (when Aubrey graduated) we were trying to meet workforce needs. There was a lot of unique training in the office careers area, so we had the hospital come in, we had the trona mine group come in,” Gray said. “Aubrey was one of our first-ever placements in the trona mine, and that is where Jones now works as a program manager for Genesis Alkali and has coworkers she knows and trusts. She said the company has supported her in many ways over the last few years, allowing her the space to use her creativity in ways that, in entry-level jobs before she participated in Climb training, were inaccessible to her. “Being able to problem solve or use my creativity is amazing. I love it,” Jones said.
She is working on an expansion project at Genesis Alkali that uses the innovative solution mining technology patented and created by the company. “This plant will become one of the most efficient and cost-effective facilities in the world, and has created hundreds of jobs during construction. It will employ approximately 125 full-time jobs when coming online,” Jones said.
Before participating in Climb’s Rock Springs-specific office careers training programming, she had worked at a family owned gas station. While she had wonderful coworkers, there simply wasn’t as much opportunity for her to grow.
“I loved the family, and they are still a support system for me, but I knew I was smart, and I knew I had potential,” Jones said. “I set a goal to get on at one of the mines.”
In addition to learning work skills, Jones said that Climb has helped her access mental health services when she needs them, helps lift women out of generational poverty and gives women a hope when they may be facing domestic violence. “I have a girlfriend in Laramie and she wasn’t sure about the Climb program,” Jones said. “Something came open, and knowing that I had gone through the program, she called me. She asked if she would be able to do this. She had two daughters and just had her third.
“I was like, ‘Yes, you can do it,’” Jones said. “Go in and trust them. Now she’s a graduate.”
And even years after participating, Climb graduates remain connected and able to access services. “I would have never believed it if you had shown me a snapshot of my life today a few years ago,” Jones said. “But I am here, I made it. My kids can be proud to call me mom.”