I was ready for a change and looking for the chance to change.

The following speech was given at the Earn and Learn launch event on January 26, 2012 by Tim Coates, Earn and Learn graduate.

When you enroll in Earn and Learn, you take four weeks of job-readiness training. One of the things they teach you is how to be a better public speaker. They tell you to be to be clear and to the point. I took that lesson to heart, and I think this event today is a good chance for me to test myself.

I learned many things in the training. In fact, it’s fair to say that it changed my life.

Southwest Solutions President, John Van Camp, introduces Earn and Learn graduate Tim Coates at the Earn and Learn Launch event held January 26, 2012.

Southwest Solutions President, John Van Camp, introduces Earn and Learn graduate Tim Coates at the Earn and Learn launch event held January 26, 2012.

When you’re out of a job and you have no prospects, it’s easy to get in trouble and easy to get down on yourself. I knew that I had no future unless I got a stable job and could plan a career path.

In the training classes, they emphasized that I must present a better branding of myself. You need to make yourself attractive to employers. Part of that is showing good character and a proper attitude. You also learn that compromise is necessary – and is not a sign of weakness. You have to do things differently to get ahead.

When I graduated from training in December, I was placed in subsidized employment with Anchor Staffing. It’s factory work, involving packaging and shipping. It’s a good job and a good start.

One of my next steps is to complete my GED assessment at Focus: HOPE. I had dropped out of high school junior year. My attendance was really poor, and I just didn’t feel like sitting in class. Now I can see that was a mistake, but at the time I wasn’t really thinking about my future.

I made some other mistakes, too. I have a misdemeanor on my record, and I’m still on probation. But I don’t want my mistakes to define me and limit me. I’m determined to put the past behind me and focus on creating a better life for myself.

My goal is to get my GED as soon as I can. I’ve been applying for some customer service jobs, and they all require having a high school diploma. I want to work in customer service because I enjoy interacting with people. Eventually, I want to go to college and study education so I can become and elementary school teacher.

I’d like to thank Earn and Learn for the opportunity it gave me, and I want to assure you: I intend to make the most of it.