Trying and difficult circumstances, namely the closing of San Antonio’s Levi Strauss plant, inspired the visionary leadership that created Project Quest more than 21 years ago. Different, but equally challenging circumstances, have led to redefining that vision that will carry Quest forward stronger than ever for the next 20 or more years.
Quest, a nationally-awarded workforce development agency, was founded by COPS/Metro Alliance, leaders of the business community, the city of San Antonio, the state of Texas and the regional Private Industry Council. This nonprofit is wholly committed to developing the skills of individuals who may be stuck in a low-paying job by equipping them with a degree and/or certification needed to acquire jobs that offer a living wage, benefits and opportunities for career progression.
Quest’s results have been extraordinary. More than 80 percent of its entrants graduate from the program and 86 percent of those graduates are successfully placed in higher paying occupations. Quest graduates increase their wages by an astounding 300 percent after successfully completing the program.
Quest’s programmatic success and growth over the years strained its organizational capacity and three years ago it found itself in overwhelming debt due to its enrollment growth and unanticipated losses of grants. Those financial setbacks triggered a thorough assessment of the organization by its most significant and long-standing partner, the city of San Antonio. The city appointed a task force to work with Quest in developing a corrective action plan to address Quest’s financial sustainability.
Over the last several months, Quest, through the diligent work of its board of directors and its Executive Director Sister Pearl Ceasar, has successfully completed all items outlined in the corrective action plan and is in the second year of a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Project Quest will be a financially sustainable, critical economic development resource distinguished for its ability to:
1. Understand and meet the current and emerging work force needs of local employers;
2. Provide comprehensive support and resources to program participants to prepare them for successful (long term) employment; and
3. Facilitate collaboration with other workforce development providers to (efficiently) strengthen the local workforce.
This new vision statement places significant emphasis on Quest’s other customers besides its participants, San Antonio’s business community. In addition to having served more than 5,000 residents, Quest is determined to begin creating the types of public-private partnerships that lead to increased business expansion and retention. By providing highly qualified candidates for growing businesses, Quest will have transcended from a perceived social service agency to its true identity, an economic development broker of our community’s most valuable resource, our people.