October 31st, 2017, was the 500th anniversary of Reformation Day, a movement that brought greater religious freedom and greater freedom of expression. The Reformation decreed that we are saved by grace alone, and our faith—not our works—is evidence of our belief. In light of this, I felt compelled to begin communicating again to explain what’s happening with LATROBE and show how our journey has evolved.
For the last two years I have worked with the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce on an initiative to connect people to educational opportunities and employment opportunities in Memphis and throughout the Mid-South. The project focuses on career education and technical education through our two-year community college and short-term certification training.
This project provided insight into what Memphis needs, and it made us rethink LATROBE’s role in the community. We’ve expanded our services and now specialize in three areas: career readiness (workforce development for hard-to-place individuals), commercial readiness (business development for individuals who need help starting their own businesses), and, our newest specialty, campus readiness, which is safety and security development for organizations and institutions.
I have over 25 years’ experience in engineering, manufacturing, and workforce, and James, my vice president and husband, has over 25 years’ experience in education, safety, and security. His education and experience is invaluable, though, because it has taught him how to get hard-to-place people (i.e. people with backgrounds) back to work.
LATROBE isn’t alone in providing training and job-placement—the Arkansas Workforce Center, Tennessee Workforce Development Center, and local non-profit organizations provide similar services and training—but our advice to anyone we meet is this: Find an organization that provides case management. Why? Because you need someone to help you navigate the process. If you’re returning to the workforce but don’t have a qualified, skilled, experienced professional helping with your job search and serving as your advocate, you likely won’t find a job.
We use assessment tools to determine unique interests and skills, and knowing that it takes more than training to land a job, we also hold your hand and walk with you every step of the way. LATROBE isn’t a staffing company. It’s part of the community. We use technology, proven practices, and community relationships to help you get the job you want. Stay tuned for future posts on how we use technology to find solutions for job seekers through our Career Readiness portfolio.
Most parents would love for their child to be able to attend an elite college or university. Our son has the grades to attend any school in America, and we can afford to send him. But, he might tell us that instead of going to college, he wants to get his certification. We are okay with that because James and I know getting a college degree isn’t for everyone. In fact, in today’s job market, you don’t need a degree to jumpstart your career.
Earning a college degree is a great way to start your career, but as a community, we need to get back to being entrepreneurial and find ways to start our own businesses. Sometimes, learning a hands-on skill (i.e. a trade) teaches what you need to know to start your own business. LATROBE’s Commercial Readiness program can help you with this very thing.
I’m from Stuttgart, in the Arkansas Delta. James and I moved to the Memphis area when he, an associate warden at the federal prison in Forrest City, was transferred to the region. We relocated near Memphis because it put us squarely in the middle of everything: what’s happening in eastern Arkansas, and what’s happening in western Tennessee.
Memphis is our home—we’re going to retire here—so we’ve decided to get more involved in community affairs. LATROBE allows us to do that. By training job seekers, introducing them to employers, and helping individuals launch their own businesses, not only are we helping make the Memphis economy stronger and more diverse, we’re doing the same for the entire Mid-South economy! And, we’re helping reform our community.
The Birthplace of Latrobe Anyone who knows me knows my passion for manufacturing. Ask me what I love and I’ll gladly share my strange fetish for the smell of metal & hydraulic fluid or the sound of machines & grinding wheels. So I thought it was strange when I was offered a job in my then-employer’s corporate office in Latrobe, PA. Not only was I leaving my comfort zone in my work environment, but I was also leaving my comfort zone in my cultural and social circle…
In 2005, we moved to Appalachia (western PA and WV). I grew up in AR, but this was the coldest, oldest, grayest place I had ever lived. However, this move was by divine order. (Later I would understand God’s plan for taking us out of our comfort zone and putting us in a place so remotely foreign that we would start to seek him.) By divine order, I mean that everything fell into place: home, childcare, support network. We had a change in lifestyle and an increase in social status.
In order to accommodate our two career family, we decided to split the commute. James drove south 1.5 hours daily to work in WV and I drove 2.0 hours north. We left home at dark, returned at dark, and barely had time for dinner and homework before it was time to get ready for the next day. And to add to this, we were both working on terminal degrees. We lived for the weekends, which quickly became consumed with Quincy’s activities.
Fastforward to 2009: During the economic downturn, my company responded by asking all employees to take 10% paycuts and monthly furloughs. Financially, we did not miss it. Actually, I discovered we could get by on a lot less. And I enjoyed being home with Quincy. I started reading my bible more, which lead me to start seeking my divine purpose. My scripture, according to Matthew 7:7: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
By this time, I was over the commute, over leaving my child very early every morning, over corporate America, and over seeking the C-suite. I desired a career that required me to visit a manufacturing shop. I believe in American manufacturing and its importance in sustaining the middle class economy.
For over four years, I passed the sign welcoming me to Latrobe and one day in 2009 it finally dawned on me that God brought us to Latrobe so that I could hear His voice and understand His vision for my life. So this became the birthplace for LaTRobe (Latanyua T. Robinson Enterprise).
Jeremiah 29:11-For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. As I began to pray and seek the word, He began to reveal things. And I started to visualize how God was using me to witness to others of His goodness. How else could a girl child from AR, born to a single-teenaged mother, rise up and become devoted to job creation, especially in the industrial manufacturing sector? His word to me, according to Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord, with all of your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path.
Everyone who knows me also knows that James keeps me grounded. I was ready to walk away from my job in January 2010, but James said, “Hold up! Girls from Stuttgart don’t just walk away from six-figure jobs to pursue a dream. You have to have a plan and revenue flow before you can quit, retire, etc.”
P.U.S.H. and things just started happening. I started meeting people and getting invited to events. One day, a former colleague called and asked if I could help him with some consulting; in turn, he would help me tweak and execute my business plan for LaTRobe.
On August 23, 2010, two days before my 40th birthday, I was able to announce my retirement from corporate America so that I could pursue my destined purpose. Through God, I had done what I had to do until I could do what I want to do. Mark 11: 24—whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
LaTRobe is dedicated to job creation in industrial manufacturing. We assist local manufacturers in competing globally by providing contract manufacturing, process engineering, and strategic marketing services. Phase 1-contract services. Phase 2-intellectual property. Phase 3-asset ownership. We will provide jobs that support advanced energy and defense technologies. According to Romans 4:17: call on those things that are not as though they are!!!
FAITH: Facing Adversity Instead of Turning and Hiding
I shared my journey to find my Purposed Work in manufacturing. I started with my professional work, yet I had a lot of other jobs along the path. And while I was looking for a topic for the next installment, this came to me from a couple of sources: Any job is better than no job. It's not forever. It's merely a stepping stone.
You are a product of your environment. Well, I grew up on Rose Street in Stuttgart, AR. It may not sound like much, but we had a community of families who had faith. Our parents had jobs, sometimes two or three—doing whatever it took to keep the family afloat. Those cooks, drivers, city workers, hospital employees, mechanics, mill workers produced offspring who today are educators, nurses, pharmacists, labor managers, chefs, mechanics, engineers, medical technicians, beauticians, business owners, and community leaders.
We have come this far by faith (Hebrews 11:1-6). Trust that everything that happens in life has a purpose. It’s how you respond to the circumstance that makes the difference. For this post, FAITH is defined as Facing Adversity, Instead of Turning and Hiding.
I got my first job twenty-five years ago. I was a Hamburger Hostess, then known as a cashier, at a local dairy bar and grill. Our family only had one car at the time, so I needed something that was within walking distance from home. It’s funny, I thought I wanted an office job, but God knew I needed a job where I could work 20-30 hours per week (I had a plan to get a car). As it turned out, the restaurant was owned by a local family known for paying bonuses. So at the tender age of 16, I got my first Christmas bonus. It was not a lot, but it was enough to give me extra money for Christmas presents for my family and to start that savings account for my car. By faith, I believe you will harvest what you plant (Galatians 6:7). By April, I was rolling in the Sunbird. I worked at that job until I graduated from high school.
I got fired from a job twenty years ago. I was in college, trying to make ends meet. A lot of friends were working in telemarketing and making good money, so I gave it a try. I was an introvert, so small talk was not my thing. Try as I might, I could never close the deal selling anyone something they did not need. I was telling my story one day in the Student Union, some counselor overheard me talking, and suggested that I get a job on campus as a tutor. By faith, I believe you will reap a harvest if you do not give up (Galatians 6:9). I was at the right place at the appointed time to find a job that allowed me to do good by serving a need. I worked at that job until I graduated from undergraduate.
I got some jobs I did not ask for during the twenty years I worked in corporate America. Shortly after James and I got married, I took a job as a plant engineer. Less than two months after I started, the plant manager took me to lunch one day and explained that they were looking to promote the current quality manager and informed me that he wanted to list me in the succession plan. Really? Six months later, while the corporate office announced reductions-in-force and salaries, I was promoted to Quality Manager. Two years later, I announced I was pregnant and thought I would get reprimanded (long story about working in a male-dominated field). Instead, I was named Plant Engineering Manager. I never applied or interviewed for any of these or other moves throughout my career. (Ironically, I did not get most of the jobs that I applied for out of ego). By faith, I believe if you have an opportunity to do good to all people, unexpected harvest will return to you (Galatians 6:10). I worked at the last company until I retired from corporate America to do my purposed work.
By faith, I believe, if you want a job that leads to your purpose, it’s yours. Exercise your faith that any job is better than no job, but merely a stepping stone en-route to your destiny. Companies are hiring. Here’s a link to several companies hiring in large volumes that lists the types of jobs that need to be filled:
The next step is yours. Remember, faith without works is dead (James 2:17).
FAITH is Facing Adversity, Instead of Turning and Hiding.