MOUNT PLEASANT — Tasha Ratliff was treading water financially and needed a new job.
As an employee at a McDonald’s just off of Interstate 94, she was only making about $9 an hour. It wasn’t her dream job, and for sure it wasn’t enough to support her and her four children.
“I couldn’t find a job for what I went to school for,” Ratliff said. “So I had to go back to find something that I could get paid money for to take care of my children.”
Ratliff had another issue — because she had some unpaid traffic tickets, she didn’t have a valid driver’s license.
Using ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft added up quick, but it was necessary to get to and from work.
During one ride to an interview, Ratliff was chatting with her Uber driver about her situation, and the driver suggested she check out the Fast Forward program administered by Racine County with the help of a grant worth more than $300,000 from the state Department of Workforce Development.
Gateway Technical College and Racine County helped provide free training opportunities for different careers.
At the time, Ratliff said she wasn’t interested in a training program — she needed a new job.
But after talking with close friends, she decided to go through the program and pick up extra shifts at McDonald’s to help make ends meet.
She signed up for the computer numerical control training, which was going to take about seven months to complete.
Ratliff’s new schedule took a lot of time away from her kids.
“On the weekend, I worked, and during the week, I’m at school,” Ratliff said. “It was just all work, school, work, school, and I never really had time for them. So Grandma had to step up and do stuff.”
Ratliff said her kids ate a lot of meals prepared in a crock pot, microwave meals and McDonald’s. A lot of McDonald’s.
“I knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel,” Ratliff said. “I knew at the end, we would be in a better situation … it was the start of something. It was the start of my life in a different way, on a different path, so I can provide for them.”
To save money, Ratliff also enlisted in the Commute to Careers program through the Department of Workforce Development and Racine County, which provides transportation to jobs for $1-$2.
Getting a job at Foxconn
With reliable transportation, Ratliff said she was able to dive into the CNC training in a way she had not done with other things in her life.
“This is the first time I took something like this very seriously in my life,” Ratliff said. “I got out what I put into the program, and I put my all in it because I’ve got my children and I figured out I got to do something different.”
Ratliff learned how to read blueprints and operate advanced manufacturing machinery.
“It was kind of difficult at first,” Ratliff said. “Working at McDonald’s and then going to CNC (training), it’s like a whole different field. So I had to learn a lot of techniques and a lot of different things that wasn’t in the field that I was in.”
After completing the training program, she interviewed with Foxconn Technology Group. She received the job and now works at the Foxconn multipurpose building in Mount Pleasant.
“I’m in a better place than I was eight months ago,” Ratliff said. “Eight months ago I didn’t have a good job. And I was working at McDonald’s making $9 an hour. Now I have a job at Foxconn making almost $18 an hour where I can take better care of my kids. I can pay those tickets off. I can look forward to buying a home instead of renting.”
Ratliff works as a surface mount technology operator at Foxconn, putting together the electrical boards for products that are likely to be produced at the Foxconn facility once it becomes fully operational.
With the 12-hour days behind her, at least for now, Ratliff said she has been making up for lost time with her kids.
“We’ve been doing stuff since I graduated from school,” Ratliff said. “We went to the movies and saw ‘Harriet Tubman,’ and I took them to see that the first day it came out.”
Ratliff told her story to the Racine County Board in November and many board members were impressed with her tenacity and her story.
Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave brought Ratliff to the meeting to share her story, along with Nicole Urquhart, who has a contract with the county for its Commute to Careers program.
Delagrave wanted the County Board, which approved of the programming, to understand the real-world impact their votes have.
Delagrave did not want to “declare victory,” he said. But he wanted to let the board know that their decisions are having a positive effect.
“Don’t think that when you walk away from your County Board meetings that you’re not making a difference, because you all are,” Delagrave said. “You guys, as elected officials, are making a difference.”
In her message to the board, Ratliff told them, “The programs worked.”
“All of the programs that you all allowed to go through, it helped me,” Ratliff told the board. “Please don’t take these programs away, there’s other people out here that need these programs that are just like me, trying to get to (jobs or training) so they can make changes.”