Iowa Job Honor Awards, Aimed at Employing Disadvantaged Job Seekers by Celebrating “A New Kind of Hero,” Announced for 2016

The Iowa Job Honor Awards, an initiative aimed at recognizing Iowans who have overcome barriers to employment, has announced its top honorees for 2016.

Nominations were submitted via the organization’s website and judged by a statewide panel. The awards were presented on June 14 in Sioux City, on the first day of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry’s annual Taking Care of Business Conference. Several hundred Iowa business leaders assembled to witness the ceremony, in which biographical videos recounted honoree efforts to win life-changing jobs.

Iowa Job Honor Awards 2016: The Rewall Company (Des Moines) from America's Job Honor Awards on Vimeo.

“Iowa employers are seeking creative solutions to our labor shortage and ABI is proud to sponsor the Iowa Job Honor Awards,” ABI President Mike Ralston said. “By shining a spotlight on success stories, the awards will help us engage our state’s untapped workforce.”

One of this year’s success stories is Jeremiah Machuca of Clinton. Raised in what he describes as an abusive home, Machuca’s early life was filled with drug abuse, criminal activity and imprisonment. “I quit caring about myself,” Machuca recalls, “and found comfort and relief in drug use.”

Following his release from federal prison he sought shelter at The Victory Center in Clinton. Almost immediately he searched for employment: “After years of not having a job history, I had to prove myself by my conduct and my behavior at a workplace.” Machuca was quickly hired by Jacobs Field Services in Clinton, where managers describe him as an outstanding employee. “To be honest with you I wish I had twenty more of these guys,” notes site manager David Windover.

Sharing employee honors is Michael Bean of Spirit Lake. Diagnosed at an early age with mental illness and chronic drug addiction, Bean’s barriers to employment made it unlikely he’d ever succeed in an integrated employment setting. Defying the odds, he’s now successfully employed at Rosenboom Machine & Tool in Spirit Lake.

“It definitely builds character to recover from an addiction,” affirms Bean, “It makes you grateful for what you have, because most of us lost everything.” Along with the obvious benefit of gaining a dedicated employee, human resources generalist Craig Van Drunen observes “It’s very rewarding to know we’re not just giving somebody a paycheck, but we’re giving them an opportunity to get their feet back on the ground and make another life for themselves.”

Machuca and Bean each received $500 cash prizes and engraved crystal awards.

In the employer category, Owner Revolution in Atlantic and The ReWall Company of Des Moines were honored for their commitment to hire disadvantaged candidates, including people with developmental disabilities, past criminal convictions and histories of addiction. Heather Link, human resources manager at Owner Revolution, believes that people who overcome barriers often make exceptional employees.

“They value this opportunity so much,” she said. “They’re doing something that matters, and they’re valued. And to me, that’s success.” Jan Rayman, CEO at ReWall, agrees: “We’ve struggled to find people who would do a good job and show up every day, so we quickly arrived at the conclusion that it’s not about their background, it’s about their present and future. We want to be the company offering second chances.”

Lead sponsor of the Iowa Job Honor Awards is ManpowerGroup. Sponsors for the June 14 celebration included Iowa ABI and Central Iowa Works. Launched in Iowa in 2014, the awards are expanding nationally under the banner of America’s Job Honor Awards.

“Our society celebrates lottery winners, movie stars and professional athletes,” notes founder Kyle Horn. “We rarely hear inspiring stories of individuals whose lives are transformed through the hard work and perseverance that leads to meaningful employment. It’s time for a new kind of hero.”

Honoree videos can be viewed at www.JobHonor.org.

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