Innovative Programs Exemplify Living MassHire Values

Reintegration through Construction Pathways participants with instructor at New England Laborer’s Training Academy.

This blog post is the fourth in a series honoring and highlighting the great work of our MassHire members who were nominated and chosen as finalists for the 2020 MassHire Awards. This blog focuses on the finalists for the Living MassHire category, including the award winner, the MassHire North Shore Workforce Board on behalf of the Northeast Advanced Manufacturing Consortium (NAMC), which includes MassHire Greater Lowell, Merrimack Valley, Metro North and North Shore Workforce Boards. MassHire is committed to understanding and valuing the diverse, unique requirements and professional goals of the businesses and people they serve. Nominations for this category were based on answers to the following questions:

  1. How did the work achieved by this individual or team effect innovative, sustainable change and positive outcomes for customers (both businesses and jobseekers), partner staff, community organizations, and/or MassHire colleagues?
  2. With everything we have to do every day, it’s easy to just keep plugging away at a job without seeing the bigger picture.
    1. How does this nominee engage in meaningful work with an understanding of the MassHire Vision?
    2. How does the nominee’s efforts contribute to the long-term goals of the organization

MassHire North Shore Workforce Board: Robin Dion, Manager, NAMC; Brian Norris, Director, NAMC; Kate O’Malley, Program Manager, NAMC; and Mary Sarris, Executive Director, MassHire North Shore Workforce Board (Living MassHire Award Winner)

MassHire North Shore Workforce Board, on behalf of the Northeast Advanced Manufacturing Consortium (NAMC), which includes MassHire Greater Lowell, Merrimack Valley, Metro North and North Shore Workforce Boards, was nominated for the Living MassHire award based on the success of their 8 year long partnership. This partnership includes their affiliated Career Centers, 5 Community Colleges, 12 Technical High Schools, over 200 Advanced Manufacturing companies, and several state governmental agencies. They have trained over 500 individuals since the beginning, 80% of whom found jobs with wages averaging $18.50 to start with benefits. In 2019 NAMC built on its reputation as the “go-to” resource for training jobseekers and incumbent workers in the skills valued by advanced manufacturers in northeastern Massachusetts. In 2019, there were two initiatives that proved the many years of relationship building and program success paid off: the Massachusetts Apprenticeship Initiative and the Advanced Manufacturing Training Expansion Program (AMTEP) funded by the GE Foundation. This established training partnership has been successful through embodying the MassHire values in all they do.

Teamwork and collaboration have been essential elements to the success of this program. No one region or workforce board could successfully do this work at the scale that is necessary to meet the needs of local employers. It also simplifies and streamlines the effort that local businesses need to make to participate. To become sustainable, the team leveraged their public sector funded successes to win a private grant from the GE Foundation. This grant allows the program to consistently train workers for in-demand jobs, without having to worry about year-to-year public funding uncertainties. In addition to private sector funding, the team is also exploring how to work with the technical high schools and community colleges to use Pell Grants to help people access training.

COVID-19 did not slow demand for skilled workers among the regions’ manufacturers. The NAMC team was able to pivot quickly to offer virtual training during the spring and were able to offer hands-on training over the summer. Virtual job fairs also helped them connect newly skilled workers with employers. They are also using some grant funds to prepare new instructors for the training program, so that the dwindling number of available instructors does not slow the program down, once the pandemic ends.

The MassHire North Shore NAMC team presented a workshop for the Massachusetts workforce development community on the experience that led to their nomination. Click here to view the PowerPoint. 

MassHire Merrimack Valley Workforce Board: Mike Paglia, Program Manager, MassHire Merrimack Valley Workforce Board; Stacy Seward, Executive Director, Dream Network Lawrence

MassHire Merrimack Valley Workforce Board was nominated for their leadership with the Dream Network Lawrence in developing the Reintegration through Construction Pathways (RECP) Program for returning citizens. To date, this program has trained 27 primarily Latinx men who have served an average of 5 years in the justice system for careers in the construction industry. In partnership with local non-profit and for-profit community partners, the program supports employer demand particularly in horizontal construction and environmental remediation. The RECP embodies the overall MassHire vision to see a better future for people and businesses through meaningful work and sustainable growth.

The program design started with a broad focus on equity, given the disproportionate rates and lengths of incarceration for Black and Latinx individuals. Their program’s goal is to leverage strengths and overcome barriers of returning citizens to facilitate self-sufficiency and lower recidivism by training and placing these individuals in middle-skill jobs that offer living wages. The team faced a key challenge working through participant behaviors they learned while incarcerated, including institutionalization, trauma, deprivation, and lack of trust. They were able to overcome these behaviors by establishing a support network of career counselors, mentors, and instructors who not only believed in the ideals of the program, but also in the participants.

Throughout their work, the team realized that they were not just helping these individuals achieve successful employment – but they were also lowering recidivism, strengthening families, and making the community safer, at the same time. In some cases, participants have started their own businesses, employing other residents. The program’s importance and success has been recognized by the City of Lawrence and Mayor Daniel Rivera, who have committed to support the program with city funds to serve 25 more returning citizens. COVID-19 has changed the timing of some of their upcoming training, but the partnership is maintaining contact with participants past and future and supporting individuals so that when the pandemic ends, there will be a pathway to self-sufficiency waiting for them.

MassHire Merrimack Valley’s Mike Paglia and Stacy Seward of Dream Network Lawrence presented a workshop for the Massachusetts workforce development community on the experience that led to their nomination. Click here to view the PowerPoint.

MassHire Holyoke and Springfield Career Centers: The Business Solutions Team: JoAnn Johnson-Miller, Director of Business Services, MassHire Springfield; Yolanda Ruiz-Klopfer, Director of Business Services, MassHire Holyoke; Quentin Murray, Business Services Representative, MassHire Springfield; and Yolanda Rodriguez, Business Services Representative, MassHire Holyoke

The MassHire Business Solutions (MHBS) team was nominated for the Living MassHire award for their work collaborating across two career centers to serve local businesses more effectively and efficiently. Operationalized in 2019, the new partnership spans two career centers that are located just 13 miles apart and who share a significant number of employer accounts. It allows businesses to call one number, send one email or visit one website (MassHireBusinessSolutions.org) to access local business support services. Their new slogan is “One Team One Number.”

One local construction company, Daniel O’Connell’s Sons, exemplifies how this innovative partnership embodies the MassHire values and is improving the quality of services. Through the joint MHBS team, they were able to hold a successful job fair for the company that led to several immediate new hires and a pipeline of others. As Efrain Amaro, HR Officer of Daniel O’Connell’s Sons stated, “I take my hat off to these two teams working as one to position the business community with the job seeking community in the utmost professional and caring way.” Mount Holyoke College has also found the team to be incredibly effective at helping them find talented and diverse candidates for jobs at the college.

Given the challenges that COVID-19 has created for businesses and job seekers, innovative partnerships that streamline and simplify access to services, such as MHBS, are even more important.

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