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 2021 MassHire Awards. This blog focuses on the finalists for the Living MassHire category, including the award winner, Eric Nelson from the MassHire Merrimack Valley Career Center. 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:
- 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?
- With everything we have to do every day, it’s easy to just keep plugging away at a job without seeing the bigger picture.
- How does this nominee engage in meaningful work with an understanding of the MassHire Vision?
- How does the nominee’s efforts contribute to the long-term goals of the organization?
MassHire Merrimack Valley Career Center: Eric Nelson, Business Services Representative (Living MassHire Award Winner)
As a Business Service Representative (BSR) at the MassHire Merrimack Valley Career Center, Eric Nelson leads two industry sector teams: Manufacturing and Professional Services. His commitment to connecting qualified workers to employers, through all available means, led to him being selected as this year’s Living MassHire Award recipient.
Calendar Year 2020 challenged the MassHire Career Center System to change how workforce development services are provided to businesses and jobseekers. Eric’s first thought was “how to assist and guide businesses” through this difficult time. He developed a survey to determine employer’s needs (hiring, downsizing, closing etc.) to connect them with specific loans, grants and other services, and community partners to help businesses remain open during the pandemic. The survey was well received, responses were positive, and businesses were grateful for the outreach and assistance from the career center. As businesses continue to suffer during this pandemic, Eric is leading the BSR Team to develop a new survey to send to businesses to determine their current hiring needs. MassHire Merrimack Valley Career Center’s survey was so successful that it was later adopted by the MassHire Department of Career Services (MDCS) and shared with all career centers to use with their local businesses.
In addition to being a leader at his own Career Center during the pandemic, Eric became an integral part of several statewide MDCS & Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) Teams to develop and implement new methods to serving jobseekers and businesses and retrieving data in response to the COVID crisis. Eric’s well-versed knowledge of the MassHire Career Center System has resulted in him also taking on the role of MOSES system trainer. Statewide, he co-headed the MassBizWorks Employer Service training. In addition, Alice Sweeney, Director of Career Services and Eddie Bartkiewicz, Manager Quality Assurance & Monitoring have requested his continued participation on EOLWD, MDCS, and MassHire specialized projects and teams.
Approximately three years ago Eric volunteered his time to become a member of the newly formed Business Engagement Committee (BEC). He brought to the Committee a sense of confidence and a high level of purpose. David Muldrew, Assistant Secretary for Employer Services at EOLWD, described Eric’s contributions this way, “Eric was one of the key thought engines on the BEC team. His feedback, review of draft documents, recommendations and direction was invaluable.”
Eric displays a strong commitment to the MassHire vision and values, and the support of his nomination by colleagues at the local and state level demonstrate this.
MassHire Franklin-Hampshire Career Center: Dan Rhayne, Career Center Counselor
With 14 years of experience, Dan Rhayne is skilled in providing case management, career counseling and coaching as a senior Career Counselor. Since May of 2020, Dan has served as the local point of contact for the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development’s Dislocated Worker Grant providing humanitarian food relief jobs in partnership with Snapchef. Dan has worked in partnership with staff from the grant’s primary operator, the MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board, as well as staff from Snapchef. According to Melissa Scibelli, Director of Workforce Development at the Board, “Dan put in many long days, asked countless questions to ensure he understood every angle of the opportunity which ultimately led to a lot of thinking outside the box contributing to immense success.”
Arwen Robitaille, Operations Manager for Snapchef Providence, offered the following testimony to Dan’s exemplary work:
“Dan was so compassionate and passionate at the same time. He truly cared so much about every single person that came across his desk. He took so much time to write everything he could about each candidate and provide me with the best overview that he possibly could, so the candidate would be placed properly through the program. The candidates that he encountered would always come back to Dan if they had any issues/concerns as they knew that he had the kindness to deal with them and help them along with any struggles they were having. In my opinion, he went above and beyond for so many people and was always putting their feelings first…MassHire in Franklin Hampshire is very lucky to have such a great person working for them.”
In addition to the Dislocated Worker Grant and his work with partners outside the career center, Dan also showed his deep commitment to “living MassHire” by developing the MassHire Franklin Hampshire Career Center Work Readiness Lab (WRL). The WRL is a series of workshops that incorporate basic core competencies such as communication, teamwork, respect for diversity, dependability and reliability and professionalism. These workshops assist job seekers in getting a job and also provide them with the tools they need to successfully keep a job. Dan had a lead role in the design and establishment of the WRL and continues to adapt and perfect workshops to meet the demands of the job market and needs of job seekers.
Dan’s commitment to MassHire Franklin-Hampshire’s customers, staff, and the broader community, has made him an invaluable asset across the region, exemplifying all of MassHire’s values.
MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board: Steve Trueman, Vice President of Workforce Development; Melissa Scibelli, Director of Workforce Development Programs; Tina Enfantis, Contracts Facilitator and Manager; Tiffany Munford, Manager of Program Oversight and Compliance; Joanne Lyons, Executive Assistant for Administrative Operations; Amanda Mantilla, Program Data Specialist
In early 2020, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and Department of Career Services were faced with the unprecedented challenge of a pandemic. Because of his previous success designing and implementing disaster response efforts, Steve Trueman, Vice President of Workforce Operations at MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board (MHHCWB), was one of the first people tapped to assist in the development of a proposal to the Department of Labor for a National Dislocated Worker Grant. Steve and his team of seasoned program and administrative professionals developed innovative programs, structures, and processes built on the four MassHire values: ingenuity, respect, collaboration, and reliability. These proved effective not only in Hampden County but throughout the entire state, and significantly improved the lives of MassHire customers as well as the workforce system as a whole.
The $7M grant offered individuals unemployed as a result of the pandemic temporary employment opportunities in food service, preparation and delivery to meet the enormous need both at food banks and for elderly and other vulnerable populations, along with career and training activities in priority industries. Steve and his team implemented a highly organized system of new policies and agreements focused on strong communication, coordination and relationships with MassHire organizations across the state, many employers, and community organizations.
Feedback from other regions, from employer and worksite partners, as well as from the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) emphasized the team’s exceptional work in consistently delivering high quality professional services at each location and in every interaction. Tina Efantis oversaw a state of the art contracting system that ensured consistency in operation and timely reimbursement processes. Melissa Scibelli coordinated robust technical assistance to all regions in the areas of outreach/recruitment, eligibility, and process and performance management. The team reviewed, approved, and documented all payments, kept records for each temporary worker, and monitored worksites, all requiring the highest level of administrative capacity provided by Tiffany Munford, Joanne Lyons and Amanda Mantilla.
Since July 2020, nearly 200 job seekers have been placed in temporary employment at 57 job sites, and nearly 80 individuals have begun Career and Training activities in priority industries. USDOL has recognized that these outcomes put Massachusetts well ahead of almost every other state in the country. Steve and Melissa have both participated in national webinars to provide guidance to other states.
Jibrael Younis, a MassHire Central Career Centers Business Engagement Solutions Team Supervisor, who worked with the team on behalf of the Central Region, was introduced to the MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board through the grant. His letter of support for their nomination stated, “In all of my interactions with the MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board, I can say that they have been nothing short of amazing…In Governor Baker’s State of the Commonwealth address, he referred to the grant program as being a ‘silver lining’ and one of the major accomplishments in the State in the past year.”