Our Stories

Talent Development Catalyzes Opportunity

A strong and vibrant workforce helps fuel community growth as well as business success. That’s why Union Pacific Railroad is supporting LISC Financial Opportunity Centers and contributing the expertise of its staff to industrial training programs that help people compete for family-sustaining jobs. Union Pacific’s Chiquita Morgan urges employers to "get out from behind our walls" and help advance the efforts of workforce development agencies, neighborhood groups and others who are helping people build a stronger financial future for themselves and their community.

It should come as no surprise that employers and community developers often share some of the same goals. Employers are seeking job-ready individuals who can make a meaningful contribution to their businesses, and community developers are helping people build the skills they need to compete for positions in growth industries.

It just makes sense that we work together to meet those objectives. Union Pacific Railroad, where I have worked as an employee recruiter for the past five years, selected LISC as a key partner in its Community Ties Giving Program, providing a multi-year grant to support the Financial Opportunity Center (FOC) program, which helps unemployed and underemployed people move into quality jobs, build their incomes, and save for the future. Over the last year, we have worked directly with FOC program leaders in four cities to help expand and inform training for the Transportation, Distribution and Logistics (TDL) sector—a field we know well, and one where we think there is tremendous opportunity for the future.

The truth is none of us can afford to ignore untapped talent. A better-trained workforce contributes significantly to strong businesses and flourishing communities, whether people are moving into TDL jobs or other fields.

That’s why programs offered through FOCs are so important. I’ve been impressed by interactions with FOC participants, as well as local nonprofits that operate the FOC programs. They are providing people with the technical skills needed to gain employment in a variety of fields, including TDL positions as welders, machine operators and, in our case, even on train crews. The programs also focus on the importance of the “soft” skills needed for people to get hired in the first place and to effectively interact with co-workers, supervisors and customers.

The truth is none of us can afford to ignore untapped talent.

I was struck by the importance of this multifaceted approach during a recent mock interview event in Chicago, hosted by LISC and North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN) for its clients. Union Pacific staffers “interviewed” job-seekers, providing real-world scenarios and feedback to help them prepare for new opportunities. It was a tremendous day! We found the candidates to be engaging and prepared, armed with the skills they need to move into family-supporting jobs thanks to the training and coaching they have received.  From their resumes to their presentation skills, they showed our interviewers how much they have to offer a potential employer. (You can read more about mock interviews in this recap of our recent event in Houston.)

These candidates might not be on the radar of most companies. Some might have difficult employment histories; others might be rebuilding their lives after incarceration. But that doesn’t mean they can’t succeed. With the right training and support, they can become highly valued employees. We have seen the determination of FOC clients in Chicago, Houston, Kansas City, and Los Angeles. It is a powerful indicator of what they can achieve.

I think there is a lesson here for employers: we should look for ways to get out from behind our walls and really make ourselves available to workforce agencies, neighborhood organizations and others that are helping people build a stronger economic future. We can be mentors and coaches, as well as offer job opportunities – that’s a win for businesses and communities.


Chiquita Morgan, Union Pacific Railroad
Chiquita Morgan is a senior recruiter at Union Pacific Railroad in Chicago. Union Pacific has made a national commitment to supporting safe, prosperous and vibrant communities through its Community Ties Giving program.

Union Pacific provided a $3 million grant to LISC to expand FOCs
See more stories from
visit the local office's website
Explore the LISC local offices involved in this story.