Mission to upskill: How one nonprofit is helping job seekers compete for new opportunities

Project Quest has served as intermediary between job seekers and employers

SAN ANTONIO – Many companies around the country are dealing with labor shortages, but one solution to that issue is retraining.

Project Quest was created to offer workforce training programs for the unemployed and under-skilled job seeker. In 30 years, the nonprofit has helped 8,000 participants.

David Zammiello is the president and CEO of Project Quest, a nonprofit organization established by COPS Metro Alliance and the city of San Antonio in 1992. He believes it’s a layered issue.

“The idea of labor shortage means different things, and it’s not just there’s not enough people and there’s more jobs than people. There’s probably some of that, but I think are we helping everyone reach their full potential and developing the skills needed to compete for those jobs. And doing so at a pace and a rhythm that produces people with those skill sets to meet those jobs,” Zammiello said. “I think that’s the biggest question and the biggest opportunity.”

Zammiello said the organization focuses on individuals that have opportunities to help improve their skills, but don’t have access to the resources, the financial support and coaching needed to help navigate a training program and get them job ready.

“We went back and traced over our 8,000 different participants that we have served over those years to show individuals that would come to Project Quest what their pre-Quest wages were, and then, as they completed their program, what their post-Quest wages were, and then downstream economic impact to the community,” Zammiello said. “As a result of our services and the up-skilling and putting people in jobs where they can take care of their families and be contributors to our economy, Quest returned about $1.7 billion to economic impact to our community.”


Zammiello said, each participant comes to Project Quest for different reasons, but with the same goal in mind.

“It really begins with a resident who has this moment where they’re looking for access to resources and opportunity to improve their skills set and ultimately change the trajectory of their life,” he said.

JaRoyce Bratcher-Molett is a new parent and works multiple jobs, while he attends classes at Alamo Colleges, a training institution partnered with Project Quest. Bratcher-Molett is enrolled in the Commercial Drivers License program.

“I got connected to the CDL through a family friend,” Bratcher-Molett said. “I was just really trying to do anything to make more money, and then she said something about Project Quest. She gave me the information and I called them, and the rest was history.”

Bratcher-Molett hopes to own his own trucking company one day. He said Project Quest has helped him realize his dream, and he is thankful for the guidance and support he receives.

“I’ve done temp services, warehouse jobs and doing other side gigs, too, but nothing else clicked and nothing stayed. I’m just glad finally to be at point where I could do this,” he said.

Zammiello said that’s the goal Project Quest aims to achieve every time.

“Workforce development or labor, it does come back down to people, and people have stories and lives,” he said. “You have to meet them where they’re at, but seeing the transformation on the back end makes all the work we’re doing very gratifying.”

About the Authors

Azian Bermea is a photojournalist at KSAT.

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