Community Newsletter – December 2020
Letter from the Executive Director
Welcome to our first edition of our agency newsletter. The MassHire Lowell Career Center has been closed to the public since March due to COVID-19. However, our staff has been hard at work! At the beginning of the pandemic, staff transitioned to providing Unemployment Assistance. The demand for UI assistance was unprecedented. The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development asked career centers across the state to shift staff work to calling back UI claimants. Overnight 17 of our staff learned how to file UI claims over the phone.
This work continued until September and a few of our staff are still helping claimants resolve their issues. Our staff did an amazing job shifting to working remotely and learning to do work they had never done before. Due to the pandemic we had to switch to remote services.
We were well prepared because we were leaders in developing webinars for job search. These award-winning webinars are free and open to anyone. Other career centers offered their customers to participate in our webinars while they worked to do their own virtual offerings. I encourage anyone in the job search to attend Bob and Stacey’s webinars.
I wanted to create this newsletter because our staff is doing amazing things. Too often I hear that we are “the best-kept secret”. These newsletters will highlight our work with job seekers and employers in the Greater Lowell area. I appreciate your subscribing to this. Please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Walmart Foundation Grant
In July we received $1,000 from the Walmart Foundation at the recommendation of the Chelmsford location’s Store Manager, Brandie Anderson. The Career Center Staff used these funds to purchase backpacks and school supplies. These backpacks and school supplies were then distributed to families enrolled in our Department of Transitional Assistance programs. The families then decided if they wanted to pick up the backpacks in person and choose a book from our book library. This book library called “First Books Collaboration” is funded by the Administration of Children and Family. Alternatively, they could have our staff drop off the backpack with a book chosen by staff that would be age appropriate for the child. This project was done in keeping with social distancing and PPE guidelines given the COVID-19 situation. The families were grateful for the supplies and the staff enjoyed putting it all together. Thank you to the Walmart Foundation for making this possible.
Young Adult Summer Update
Every year our Young Adult department provides work readiness and paid internships for hundreds of low-income youth in Lowell. Typically, we place the young adult in worksites throughout the City. These include the City’s Park and Recreation programs, the Boys and Girls Club, Mill City Grows, and our own “van crew” which cleans up public spaces around the City. Due to COVID-19 we had to shift gears. We needed to go mostly remote with our summer program. To this end, we continued with our van crew and very limited worksite placements and divided our remote services into three areas. For youth ages 14-15 years, they created art for Early Childhood Classrooms and received a $950 stipend for this work. For youth ages 16-21 years, they worked on a Health and Wellness website and created four books. They received a $1,275 stipend for this work. The third tier was geared towards 17-21-year-old young adults to receive a Digital Web Design certificate and to design an Instagram page for a local business, The Social Pup. They received a $1,560 stipend for this. All these projects were very successful. Congratulations to the 136 young adults who participated this summer.
Health and Wellness
To the right is a picture of the four Health and Wellness books created by summer interns in 2020. Below is a link to the Health and Wellness website created by the interns.
The leadership group designing an all-inclusive youth voice-driven Young Adult Career Center. Leaders were asked how they felt about being asked to help design a new space and attached are their direct quotes.
The MassHire Awards
Every year the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development along with the State Workforce Board hosts the MassHire Awards. Awards are given to Workforce Boards and Career Centers who exemplify the brand values: Collaboration, Respect, Ingenuity, and Reliability. Last year we had three finalists and won the Ingenuity Award for our webinars. This year we had three finalists again. Amy Veillette, Career Advisor/Supervisor, for Reliability. Amy was nominated for her work with trainees in our Advanced Manufacturing grants. These programs funded by the Northeast Advanced Manufacturing Consortium, provide training for CNC machinists, Welders, and quality control. Amy works on recruiting for these trainings and supports students throughout the program. Tim O’Connor, Manager for IT/QA, was nominated for Ingenuity for his work with using Bullhorn. This program allows for job matching the resumes that we collect from our job seekers to the job orders we receive from area employers. Tim sent up a Career Portal for job seekers to load their resumes directly and/or to apply for our jobs directly. Tim’s work with Bullhorn was presented to other Workforce Boards and Career Centers and many of them are now pursuing using Bullhorn as well. Kelly Higgins, Young Adult Career Advisor, was nominated for Respect. Kelly was nominated due to her work at the Career Academy here in Lowell. The Career Academy is an alternative high school. Kelly developed a Career Action Plan that incorporates Co-op style internships that students can earn school credits for work. The students love seeing Kelly on the days she is at the Career Academy. Kelly’s work won her the award for Respect and a $10,000 grant for the Career Center. Congratulations to our finalists and our winner.
New Veterans’ Representative
This October the career center welcomed its new Veterans’ Representative Larry Clayton. Larry is a native of Lowell and a graduate of Lowell Technical High School. He served 14 years in the Navy as a Petty Officer 2nd Class.
Larry brings excellent experience working with veterans after serving as a Transition Assistance Program Manager at Hanscom Air Force Base. He is also currently pursuing a degree in Human Service and Social Work at Southern New Hampshire University.
Some of the challenges Larry expects to face are dealing with common barriers to employment such as disabilities, gaps in work history, and unrelated experience. He is hopeful that he can create an environment that veterans feel welcomed and have no hesitation about visiting the career center.
Staff Profile – Ohana Patterson
With a drive to open doors and shed a light on available services, staff member Ohana Patterson is committed to informing people of the benefits offered by MassHire Lowell Career Center and other agencies in the Lowell area.
As an immigrant from Brazil, Ohana has experienced herself and sees other individuals failing to connect with social services because they simply do not know they exist.
“I would like my customers to know that there is a system out there to help them,” said Ohana.
Ohana joined the Career Center in May 2020 and is the Career Navigator in the “Move to Work” program. The Move to Work program is a collaboration between MassHire Lowell Career Center, MassHire Merrimack Valley in Lawrence, and Community Teamwork (CTI). The grant is designed for customers on Section 8 to find employment – or better employment – to become self-sufficient.
Ohana’s dedication to social assistance stems largely from her experience immigrating as a 6-year-old child from Brazil. She remembers – although not fondly – the cold winter ride she had with her parents from New York to Lowell when they arrived in the 1990s.
In the Move to Work program, Ohana assists customers with their job search or explores the possibility of training. She has been extremely pleased with the partnership with Community Teamwork. Ohana also works out of the MassHire Merrimack Valley office as well.
“It really has been a great collaboration,” she said.
Ohana recognizes the many challenges that her customers face. But beyond the normal job search, they now face issues related to the Covid-19 restrictions. Remote interviews or training is especially difficult for individuals without a computer or internet access.
“A lot of people just don’t have computers. And remote learning while you have three children at home is a big ask,” she said.
One of the challenges facing Ohana was starting at the Career Center during the Covid-19 crisis. She admitted that it is a hard job to learn and it was made more difficult by working at home this summer. Ohana said that she is feeling much more comfortable after meeting her colleagues when staff returned to work in September. But, she laughed, there are still some staff members she has not met.
Ohana previous experience will suit her well for this job. She has worked as a Residential Director, a Mental Health Technician, and a Teacher. She believes that experience has prepared her well for role at MassHire Lowell Career Center.
When not working, Ohana enjoys being creative. She is an avid photographer and painter. Ohana and her husband also have a three-year-old daughter. To the delight of staff, Ohana’s daughter has been known to make unexpected appearances during the career center’s Friday Zoom meeting.
Free Coursera Online Courses
MassHire Career Centers across the state partnered with Coursera, an online learning platform, to offer free online courses to job seekers. Coursera offers over 4,000 courses on a variety of topics. This partnership allowed customers who might have been prevented from obtaining training due to the Covid-19 restrictions, to start their training and bolster their résumés.
MassHire Lowell Career Center led the state in total course vouchers received by customers. As of December, 535 customers in Greater Lowell received a course voucher. Lowell customers received 18% of all vouchers offered throughout the state. Lowell Career Center heavily recruited customers in our webinars and on social media.
Advanced Manufacturing Welding Program
In December, MassHire Lowell Career Center started recruiting for the Advanced Manufacturing Welding Program. This program instructs participants in Tig & Mig welding for manufacturing. The course – at Shawsheen Valley Technical School in Billerica – offers 300 hours and 16 weeks of training. The course will run from January 25, 2021 to May 13, 2021. Classes are held every night from Monday to Thursday, from 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Once a customer completes the course, MassHire Lowell Career Center staff assist the individual in becoming employed in that field.
The Advanced Manufacturing Welding Program is a collaboration between the MassHire Lowell Career Center, the Northeast Advanced Manufacturing Consortium, and the Greater Lowell Workforce Board.