Job Developer James Spiller joined AACF at the beginning of this year, but he had already met Executive Director Evelyn Mensah, sitting next to her at a networking event with the Department of Family and Support Services in 2019. When he saw the company name for the Job Developer role online in December 2022, he thought “Wow,” and was inspired to submit his application for the role. Mr. Spiller brings his expertise from his background as a Certified Life Coach and his BA in Applied Behavioral Sciences from National Lewis University and as well as a lifelong career serving as Program Manager for various not-for-profits including: the Center for Family Services, Center for New Horizons, Volunteers of America, Employment and Employer Services, and the Safer Foundation.
In his role as AACF Job Developer Mr. Spiller builds partnerships with businesses in the community and matches youth clients with jobs, paid internships, and on-the-job training. He is passionate about his work serving youth clients by matching them with jobs appropriate to their interests, aptitudes, and educational backgrounds and describes his role simply as: “I really am just a matchmaker.” Many of the clients which Mr. Spiller and the AACF team serve are individuals with barriers to employment which may include any number of the following criteria: low income, parenting youth, high school dropout, experiencing homelessness, incarceration background, among other challenges.
A large part of Mr. Spiller’s work is to encourage his youth clients to overcome the psychological barriers that accompany many of these challenging situations. His expertise in life coaching and a long history of working with youth and adults with barriers to employment come into play on a daily basis as he works in the field. He describes his Job Developer skill as “getting to know the clients, getting to know their triggers, and matching them with employers who will not pull their triggers,” a verifiably challenging task for youth who already have experienced various forms of trauma already in their young lives. Mr. Spiller’s life coaching skills are always on the forefront of his work with youth encouraging his clients to believe in themselves and their ability to make positive changes in their lives despite previous or current challenges with phrases like: “You have complete control over what you are going to do with your life. The question that God always asks is what are you going to do now?”
The work of building partnerships with local businesses in the community involves visiting them in person and establishing working relationships with the owners and managers of the business letting them know upfront: “I want to save you time, save you money, and make you money.” It is crucial for managing staff and business owners to have an understanding of the situations that the youth clients are coming from. Many come from backgrounds where they experienced various forms of abuse and trauma as well as from low income backgrounds with parents struggling to make ends meet. Key among AACF goals is to end the cycle of poverty by assisting youth and adult clients to enter into living wage careers. However, in certain times the most important thing is to simply gain employment. Mr. Spiller understands this need and strives to place all of his youth clients into suitable jobs in which they can grow.
Mr. Spiller also runs recruiting events in Community Events, high schools, job fairs, and distributes print flyers throughout the community advertising job opportunities as well as the opportunity to join AACF for job placement assistance, job training, and paid internships. Mr. Spiller is grateful for the opportunity to use his professional expertise to serve Chicagoland youth to overcome barriers to employment and describes his experience thus far with AACF as “It’s been very interesting. I’ve learned a lot and I’m still learning a lot.”