Community colleges, workforce centers look to prepare adults for jobs

  • Workforce training specialist Shawntsi Baret leads a workshop in customer service for Melanie Rojas, right, of Springfield and others enrolled in the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s Training Resources and Internship Network’s initiative, or TRAIN, at the MassHire Holyoke Career Center on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Workforce training specialist Shawntsi Baret, hands out materials to Karen Liton, left, of Holyoke and others learning about customer service in the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s Training Resources and Internship Network’s initiative, or TRAIN, at the MassHire Holyoke Career Center. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Karen Liton of Holyoke takes part in a workshop on customer service in the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s Training Resources and Internship Network’s initiative, or TRAIN, at the MassHire Holyoke Career Center. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jaryliz Ruiz, left, and Melanie Rojas, both of Springfield, take part in a workshop on customer service. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Workforce training specialist Shawntsi Baret leads a workshop in customer service for six students enrolled in the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s Training Resources and Internship Network’s initiative, or TRAIN, at the MassHire Holyoke Career Center on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jaryliz Ruiz, left, and Melanie Rojas, both of Springfield, take part in a workshop on customer service in the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s Training Resources and Internship Network’s initiative, or TRAIN, at the MassHire Holyoke Career Center on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Workforce training specialist Shawntsi Baret leads a workshop in customer service for students enrolled in the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s Training Resources and Internship Network’s initiative. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Students look over materials in a workshop on customer service at TRAIN. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Christine Sanchez, a student in Holyoke Community College’s TRAIN program, chops onions in a second week of job readiness training at HCC’s MGM Culinary Arts Institute building in downtown Holyoke. CHRIS YURKO, HOLYOKE COMMUNITY COLLEGE

For the Gazette
Published: 4/7/2019 11:41:06 PM

HOLYOKE — Eight students surround Chef Tracy Carter one day late last month in a classroom at Holyoke Community College’s MGM Culinary Arts Institute building in downtown Holyoke.

This is not your normal classroom. Desks are replaced with kitchen tables, clipboards become cutting boards, and pencils become knives. Traces of citrus and salt linger, as Carter illustrates her method to check the degree of doneness when cooking meat, using different positions of her fist.

She is demonstrating how to prepare the perfect chicken breast. “Don’t let it sense your fear,” she jokes, placing a sizzling pan in the oven.

The joke makes Christine Sanchez laugh. The 26-year-old is one of the first students to enroll in a new regional program designed to prepare, transition and retain unemployed adults in the workforce. The program, called the Training, Resources and Internship Network, or TRAIN, launched this spring thanks to a $247,000 state grant.

The program was designed by Holyoke Community College, Greenfield Community College and Springfield Technical Community College in partnership with three career centers — Masshire Holyoke, Masshire Springfield, and Masshire Franklin-Hampshire County in Greenfield. Adults who qualify for the program will be introduced to job opportunities at a host of local businesses that are participating in the endeavor.

“I am really interested in learning different things and what the program has to offer,” Sanchez said. “To get some training and learn different things about getting a job.”

The Holyoke resident found herself unemployed last summer after being laid off from her job as a bus driver. After months of searching for work, Sanchez visited MassHire, where she met a woman from HCC handing out flyers for the TRAIN program.

The program intrigued her, as she wished to improve her job readiness and explore a career in culinary arts.

It’s students like these that HCC and other colleges hope to attract, with the end goal of reducing the unemployment rate and filling vacancies at companies throughout the Valley.

Students in the program will receive training in four distinct areas — job readiness, job training, internships and job placement.

Job readiness

The job readiness portion includes workshops on how to create a resume, interview skills, career expectations, customer service and other skills.

“We have these different presenters coming in and doing different workshops,” said Kermit Dunkelberg, assistant vice president of ABE & Workforce Development at HCC. “Then our team is trying to help them make sense of all that and develop their own sense of their own individual plan for where they are going next.”

Sanchez is currently in the job readiness stage of the program. She has completed a math and reading assessment, which helps determine where students need to brush up on their skills.

She has been introduced to career exploration, where students are exposed to culinary arts, hospitality and manufacturing training. Sanchez had a good idea of her career path when registering.

“I like this program because I want to go into culinary arts,” said Sanchez. “I want to be a pastry chef, I like making cakes and cookies and all of that stuff.”

The next stage of job readiness training is essential people skills and includes a certificate in customer service. Then the program helps students learn how to balance their lives, giving them access to HCC’s Thrive Center, financial literacy training and departmental transitional system.

The job readiness training ends with lessons in resume building, training on online job applications and interview skills.

Job training, internship

The job training stage is designed to prepare students in certain work skills, including but not limited to, manufacturing, culinary and hospitality training. Training will also be provided in other fields that pique student interest, including pharmacy technician and commercial driving.

“That is where the internship becomes so important because it gives people that connection,” Dunkelberg said.

The internship stage allows students to get real job experience before entering the workforce.

Job placement

From there, they will go onto the job placement stage. The consortium partnered with businesses offering jobs and internships in the community which connects students to a career. These businesses include MGM Resorts Springfield, Log Cabin Group, UMass Auxiliary Dining Services, Peerless Precision Manufacturing, Bete Fog Nozzle, Pioneer Valley Hospitality Group and CVS.

Peerless Precision President Kristin Carlson said that it got involved because there is a job shortage in advanced manufacturing. She envisions the program bringing new employees with proper training and help boost the skills of current employees.

The program “will provide additional training to incoming employees, and increase the skills (of current employees) that will help them succeed in the company,” she said.

Peerless Provisions is interested in hiring unemployed and underemployed people who are looking for jobs. “This program will help build that workforce that we so desperately need,” Carlson said.

TRAIN is giving Sanchez the opportunity to achieve her dream.

“I can’t say it’s gonna happen right away but I would like to open my own business,” she said.

Dunkelberg said the program is designed to help remove obstacles some adults face in their job search. TRAIN will provide lunch and bus passes for students, making the program more accessible to them.

“This is really for people who are facing multiple barriers,” he said.

In addition to the job training, the program will also help connect participants with benefits such as transitional assistance and food stamps. But the program also helps people get off of benefits once they start working and are supporting themselves.

In the future, Dunkelberg hopes the program continues.

“One of the myths about working in our country is that people want to be unemployed,” he said. “We are trying to build this web, we are all working together to help these people succeed and in doing so we are learning a lot about what the other people we serve need to be successful.”




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