Hope Inspired Ministries is expanding to Birmingham in January and plans to grow its presence in its home base of Montgomery, HIM Founder and Executive Director Michael Coleman announced.
Now in its fifth year, Hope Inspired Ministries serves low-skilled, poorly educated, and/or chronically unemployed men and women by preparing them to obtain and maintain employment. Through a highly relational approach that provides much needed structure and accountability, HIM develops individual worth, encourages personal responsibility, and promotes the value and honor of work in their students.
HIM’s motto is: “We Teach People How to Fish”
“We introduce a way of life that promotes the development of the emotional, physical, and spiritual maturity in each student,” Coleman said. “Basically, we take people who lack the necessary skills to be effective in a typical middle-class work environment and teach them how to use their gifts and abilities to achieve success. Our students simply don’t know what they don’t know. Without individual attention and direction, they do not possess the ability to navigate their way out of poverty.”
Coleman said HIM is conducting internal staff training and student and volunteer recruiting for the expansion into Birmingham and is interested in getting people involved whether as a volunteer, donor, or through some type of collaboration.
Beginning in January, HIM will partner with the Birmingham Dream Center, an outreach of the Church of the Highlands in the Birmingham neighborhoods of Woodlawn, East Lake, and Irondale, training adults to become self-sufficient and productive members of their communities.
The Dream Center is working with HIM to develop a solid job readiness track in communities that are served.
HIM conducts an 11-week job training course, consisting of nearly 400 hours of training that includes life and employment skills, character building, financial management, unpaid internships with local businesses, and GED training. In addition, HIM also introduces students to skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, conflict resolution, and anger management.
Coleman said accountability mixed with compassion is key to their success.
“While we are willing to walk with our students through any and all challenges, at the point that we want this more for them than they want it for themselves, we love them enough to let them return to their old life,” Coleman said. “When they hit rock bottom and become teachable again, we will be ready to accept them back.”
The program counts many success stories, which include drug dealers leaving their lives of crime and becoming productive members of society. “We have one student who came to us without a GED and was reduced to selling drugs to take care of his son, but he is now a high school automotive teacher in Virginia and on the pathway to success,” Coleman said.
While the average criminal justice system recidivism rate for cities in Alabama range from 35 percent to 50 percent, HIM maintains a 4 percent recidivism rate among its graduates. “What we are doing to transform people trapped in the hopelessness of poverty is definitely working and will have a generational impact,” said Coleman.
Coleman is a 21-year Army veteran, a former church pastor, and has served in other ministry positions to address the needs of this underserved population.
He is familiar to many Business Council of Alabama members. At the 2015 BCA Governmental Affairs Conference, Coleman was an inspirational speaker for the conference-closing interfaith service.
“The BCA is thrilled by Hope Inspired Ministries’ expansion into Birmingham,” BCA President and CEO William J. Canary. “We will continue to support HIM and its mission by better informing the business community about HIM’s contributions to the workforce training environment and the interpersonal opportunities that HIM has incorporated that result in changing a life forever by ‘teaching people how to fish’!”
Coleman said HIM graduates can go into any type of entry-level position in any field because they have been equipped with the understanding and ability to be on time, be respectful, work as a team, and effectively communicate with their boss and co-workers.
“Most of our students have never known any life outside the chaos and daily survival found in poverty,” Coleman said. “We help our students sort out that chaos and transition into a viable and productive employee. When someone living on the margins of society becomes gainfully employed, it changes everything. It helps communities by lowering crime, poverty, and addiction, as well as empowering the individual to take control of their life.
Statistics show that 80 percent of Alabamians lose their job due to soft skills issues while only 20 percent is attributed to a lack of technical skills. “When you give someone the tools to prosper and the understanding how to successfully navigate through life’s challenges, you will see authentic transformation,” Coleman said.
HIM partners with Alabama’s adult education system, the Alabama Community College System, and any agency in the state of Alabama which deals with workforce development.
Ed Castile, executive director of the Alabama Industrial Development Training Institute, is on HIM’s board of directors.
“We help recruit companies that hire and train people,” Castile said. “I think we have to focus on these kinds of issues and give all our citizens an opportunity for a job.”
ACCS Chancellor Dr. Mark Heinrich said the ACCS partners with HIM in adult education helping prepare individuals for the GED, develop academic and technical skills, develop soft skills and work-ready skills, and job placement. ACCS staff and HIM staff meet regularly to discuss other creative partnerships.
“This is a great program reaching many of Alabama’s citizens who are sincerely interested in preparing for and securing work leading to a living wage,” Dr. Heinrich said. “Working together, we believe we can better serve Alabama citizens and successfully assist many achieve a middle-class way of life.
Businesses partner with HIM to provide unpaid internships, which give the students real-world experience. While there is no cost for the business, there is also no risk as students sign liability waivers which preclude them from suing a business in the event of an accident. “This provides businesses with the safeguards needed to protect their business, which is of primary importance to us,” Coleman said.
HIM seeks businesses that will hire in entry-level positions.
“Business owners tell me on a regular basis they are desperate for employees that can just be dependable and counted on each day to do a good job,” Coleman said. “Our students prove they have that type of ability because, otherwise, they do not graduate our program.
“If we can get our students to be at work on time, display a good work ethic and a good attitude, that is a win in most cases,” Coleman said. “However, without the skills to take control of their life and work through their many issues, this is simply not achievable for most.”