Photo:Sharif Hossain, factory manager at the Apex Footwear factory in Gazipur, Bangladesh, walks Erika Hoffman-Kiess (’00 MPA) through the manufacturing process for shoes bound for Europe. Apex works with her organization, JOBS, on an innovative private sector initiative that trains and places recovering intravenous drug users (IDUs) in entry-level positions.
Erika Hoffman-Kiess is a founding partner of the JOBS Group entities – JOBS Trust, JOBS ICT Private Limited, and JOBS International. Erika is currently based in Vermont having returned to the U.S. last year after a decade living abroad in Cambodia, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Originally from Vermont, Erika received her MPA from the Maxwell School in 2000 and plans to continue her international work from her new U.S. homebase.
JOBS Group is a loosely affiliated consortium of non-profit and for-profit organizations sharing common goals in the areas of private sector development, employment generation and poverty alleviation, and ICT human resources development and sourcing. Evolving from the highly successful USAID-funded JOBS Project located in Bangladesh, the JOBS Group entities now share technical and administrative expertise, manpower, and facilities around the world.
The Apex Footwear factory in Gazipur, Bangladesh worked with JOBS on an innovative private sector initiative that trained and placed recovering intravenous drug users (IDUs) in entry-level positions. The pilot phase of the Economic Rehabilitation Program had a 75% success rate with participants staying in the program, off of drugs, and in the majority of cases, moving on to full employment within the factory or elsewhere. Measured against the 75% recidivism rate that Family Health International was experiencing in their IDU Detox and Rehabilitation program, this was a significant success by almost every measure. Success in the pilot phase raised the profile for this project and JOBS is now working with many additional donors to expand the scope of this type of cross-cutting sectoral activity to other countries.
Erika brings a diverse range of experiences to her leadership role. Prior to her JOBS experience, she managed accreditation and other projects for the Syracuse Erie Canal Museum and Visitors’ Center and worked internationally as a free-lance consultant in Portugal and Bangladesh. Today, in her role as a founding partner Erika provides organizational leadership and representation in business development activities, acts as a technical expert on private/public partnership and private sector/Academia linkages, and is currently developing a global strategy to strengthen the JOBS consortium. She takes great satisfaction in the opportunities JOBS has created for people to change their lives and alter the course of their society.
Maxwell provided a solid foundation of confidence and knowledge on which Erika built her career, where she focused on existing strengths but also had the assurance to explore new areas and develop the additional skills needed to excel in cross-cultural settings. “My favorite class when at Maxwell was the group capstone project – my group worked with City Hall and addressed the abandoned housing issue. It was very hands-on, real world experience and the unexpected press conference at the end was terrifically terrifying and yet we came through it gracefully. I have often thought of that moment since, when the cameras are right in my face and I am trying to communicate effectively. I also draw on that experience as I work now, creating supportive and effective teams to work with me on tough issues.”
“The most useful classes in retrospect are easily Budgeting, and Non-Profit Financial Management and Administration. I put everything into storage 12 years ago and the only book I dug out of the 152 boxes was my Financial Management text! The teacher was Bernard Jump and he was fantastic. In the class everything was related to current events, and in his office he was generous with support and guidance as I muddled through early on. My experience with him in that class definitely gave me the knowledge to do the work, then and now, but more importantly it gave me the strength and structure to ask the right questions.”
Erika can be contacted at email@example.com.
To read more alumni profiles, visit the Office of Alumni Relations website.