CARITAS, which has served individuals experiencing homelessness and addiction in the Richmond region for nearly 40 years, is now licensing our life-changing workforce training curriculum to organizations across the country.

The Works program was designed in 2010, and CARITAS began providing workforce development classes in 2011 to individuals experiencing barriers to employment. Since then, CARITAS has graduated nearly 1,000 people from the Works program. Participants first learn skills in developing their character and then use that information to create a resume, take part in a job interview, dress professionally, and fill out job applications. The program also includes a focus on life skills and computer training.

Marilyn Milio, the Senior Director of Workforce Programs and Training at CARITAS who helped to design the curriculum, noted that beyond workforce training, many participants are excited to learn more about their behaviors, values, personality, and what makes them unique and talented. Once they complete the curriculum, the graduates look forward to becoming contributing members of their communities.

That is why the CARITAS Works program places emphasis on character development classes, giving participants the opportunity to rediscover themselves by helping to identify their strengths, learn how they manage conflict, understand their leadership styles, strengthen how they work in a team, and hone their communication skills. 

“We heard this sentiment from so many participants,” Milio said. “They’ve said this program has helped them discover that part of themselves they thought was lost.” 

Many program participants are formerly incarcerated individuals. That not only costs them economically, professionally, and emotionally–it also costs Americans $60 billion annually on state and federal prisons.

“We knew our program could address multiple issues,” Milio said. “It could address the very personal needs of those experiencing homelessness and those struggling with addiction while also having a direct impact on the local economy and supporting the needs of employers.”

Perhaps the greatest testament to the life-altering impact of the CARITAS Works program, though, is its current Manager Dustin Shipp. He first encountered the program not as an employee, but as a participant who entered CARITAS without a home and struggling with substance use issues.

“My lived experience is not something in the past; it’s something I can use to help others,” Shipp said. “People show up not knowing what to do and leave with a sense of direction, just like I did. I get to watch people receive the same gifts that I received.”

Today, Shipp helps manage the day-to-day functioning of the program and works directly with volunteers, participants, former graduates, and others. 

“I hope I get to experience what I love about this place for many more years,” he continued.

The results speak for themselves.

In 2023, 90% of those who participated in the Works program went on to be employed after graduation, averaging 20 days or less to find a job. Additionally, 78% of graduates remain employed after one year. And in that first year, 89% of CARITAS Works graduates see their incomes increase. 

This spurred CARITAS to expand the reach of the program by launching the Works System Powered by CARITAS. 

“We saw how successful CARITAS Works has been in uplifting people, and we wanted to be able to share it with other organizations and businesses that are also supporting individuals who encounter barriers to employment,” Milio said. “So we spent 3 years re-designing the program and created The Works System Powered by CARITAS curriculum and copyrighted the curriculum in 2022. We beta tested the new curriculum in 2023 and now in 2024, we’re thrilled to launch the curriculum for purchase.”

100% of the income CARITAS earns from licensing of the curriculum will go right back into supporting their mission and helping more people recover, heal, and find rewarding work.

These numbers also speak to the very real impact this program continues to have on individuals in need. People like graduate Lloyd B., who says, “I have learned from this program not to sell myself short. Make my opinion heard, open up to others, and [know] that I can do anything if I put my mind to it and believe in myself. I think I have learned to be the best person I can be.”

And while participants like Lloyd were all eager to find a job after graduating, many employers in the Richmond region are often just as eager to hire them. 

“When we have an opening, we look first to the CARITAS Works Program,” said Joel Middleton, the plant manager at Handcraft Services, headquartered in Richmond, which offers high-quality medical linens and apparel products. “They’ve consistently provided not only skilled and dependable candidates, but workers of integrity and character, who have contributed to not only business outcomes, but also to our workplace culture and values.”

To learn more about the WORKS System Powered by CARITAS, visit