In 1998, Amy Valderas was a single mom with three kids, all under the age of seven. She stayed at home. She had no work experience. She lived with her sister.
So she goes into a Department of Human Services office (which was at that time called the Family Independence Agency), to apply for cash assistance. And, in the lobby of the office, there’s a man who says he’s from Cascade Engineering, a manufacturing company in Grand Rapids.
He asks Valderas if she wants a job.
"And I was very hesitant at first," she says. "Because I was always with my kids, and I was worried about transportation, daycare, all kinds of stuff, you know."
But the man is very convincing, and Valderas decides to try it out. Before long, she’s working 12 hour shifts. She’s working weekends. She thinks about quitting.
"Because the work is so difficult," she says. "I’d never worked before, and then the long hours. So, I didn’t think I’d be here."