Second Chances

The Mile High Workshop uses manufacturing to help people recovering from hard times get back into the workforce.

Woodworker at Mile High Workshop
Photo by Kadir Suleymanoglu

A fresh start—that’s what Sarah Sinner was looking for: “I had moved from Colorado to Louisiana and, in 2016, back to Colorado with my husband and kids. We really didn’t have a place to stay (we ended up in a relative’s basement) and I was looking for work. It was rough.” Luckily, second chances are what the Mile High Workshop specializes in.

Known by staff as The Workshop, the company provides job opportunities and training to those looking to rebuild from addictions, homelessness, and incarceration. Their work: production and manufacturing tasks (like light woodworking and sewing) outsourced from other businesses, plus making a few in-house products (like cutting boards or bags). “They hired me for a sewing job even though I had no experience,” Sinner says. “Then they helped me with everything: counseling, finding resources, and teaching me how to sew.” Now, Sinner is a sewing department manager, and she and her family have a home. “This is an amazing place to work,” she says. “I’d never felt valuable at a job until I came here.”

Background
“The Workshop started under the umbrella of Mile High Ministries in 2014,” says director Andy Magel. “A couple gave the ministry a sizable donation to help folks get back into the workforce. The first nine months were slow. We were doing stuff for some small companies, but none of the ideas were scalable. I had recently met guys with a booming business making wooden camera accessories who asked us to do their manufacturing. It became clear that the relationship with the camera company was the best thing we had going. I thought, what if we could do that same thing for other growing businesses? We’ve been evolving that model since.”

How it works
“Our program is six to nine months. We partner with housing programs, parole officers, halfway houses, and other similar places who refer people to us, but anyone can apply for a job. We interview and hire people as in any profession, but rather than look for proficiency, we look for someone who needs the opportunity. We want to help people who, first of all, need help, but are also in a place where they can put what we are offering to use. Program employees have technical training in manufacturing and learn life skills. We have a team of on-site social workers and counselors who meet with every participant individually and in a group once a week, covering everything from financial literacy to healthy relationships. The goal is to help people overcome barriers, become stable, and transition into a job in the community. We hire program graduates, like Sarah, as managers, too.”

How you can help
“We are always looking for new business partners who can provide work,” Magel says. You can also donate, purchase products from their website, and simply share their mission.

MILE HIGH WORKSHOP
Nonprofit offering manufacturing jobs
13280 E Mississippi Ave., Aurora