Business builds skills, offers fresh start

Abdul Jihad uses the printing press to make T-shirts and fill an order.
Abdul Jihad uses the printing press to make T-shirts and fill an order.

In the four weeks he’s been working at Artifex Promotions, Abdul Jihad has learned how to take measurements, place patterns and operate a T-shirt press. He’s also developing interview skills and polishing his résumé.

“This helps teach me responsibility,” Jihad said. “Artifex works with a lot of nonprofits around the city. I get a sense of pride working for a company that’s helping people in need because I was in need.”

Artifex was established by The Center for Independent Living Options (CILO) to provide paid job training. Restaurants and coffee shops were plentiful, so the print shop was a way to stand out and provide a service to the greater community.

The company, which opened last fall in Over-the-Rhine, prints artwork on T-shirts, mugs and other promotional items. All the workers have disabilities and are homeless.

“We’re teaching them a skill set to put people to work and helping them find a job after us,” said Mitch Haralson, director of educational and vocational services for CILO. “So far 20 have come through the program and 12 have found jobs elsewhere.”

In addition to making the items, Artifex employees learn about the bidding process, cost determination, production timelines and more. They’re also learning the language that can help secure a job in the community – quality assurance instead of checking T-shirts for mistakes; logistics instead of filling customer orders.

“The individuals we work with have a wide range of abilities and a wide range of experiences,” said Michael Jones, CILO’s director of social enterprise. “We try to put people in a position to accentuate their best skills. If they can do the job here, they can do it out there.”

Dionne Porter and Michael McCoy fold T-shirts for an order.
Dionne Porter and Michael McCoy fold T-shirts for an order.

Michael McCoy, who has been working at Artifex on-and-off for several months, said this job is helping him develop skills in different areas. It also gives him somewhere to go instead of sitting at home watching daytime TV. “I like that it gets me back in the routine of being somewhere, he said. “It gives me a sense of responsibility.”

Dionne Porter, who was just starting the five-week program, said the skills she’s learning will help her make a better résumé. “I really appreciate them giving me a chance to get going again,” she said. “It’s helping me start over.”

New Artifex employees are referred by social services agencies or current workers, and have found jobs in food service, construction and other industries. Jones said some will come back to Artifex to teach new trainees about leadership and teamwork.

“We help them understand their skills and how to apply them to other jobs,” Jones said. “It’s a great feeling when we see them take off.”

Haralson added that trainees also offer ideas to help Artifex innovate and suggestions for a more efficient process. “They work hard,” he said. “Seeing their confidence grow in leaps and bounds makes it worthwhile.”

Mitch Haralson, left, director of educational and vocational services,  and Michael Jones, director of social enterprise, stand outside the shop in Over-the-Rhine. Artifex Promotions is an enterprise of the Center for Independent Living Options (CILO).
Mitch Haralson, left, director of educational and vocational services, and Michael Jones, director of social enterprise, stand outside the shop in Over-the-Rhine.

Artifex Promotions is located at 1420 Sycamore St. in downtown Cincinnati. Call (513) 263-1008 or visit their Facebook page to learn more. 

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