MassHire Award Finalists Respond to Challenges with Ingenuity

This blog post is the fifth and last 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 Ingenuity category, including the award winner, Odessa DeJesus, Mobile Career Advisor, MassHire Metro South/West 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:

  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. How was the nominee proactive in developing new skills, models, approaches, innovations, etc. which led to strong outcomes with a lasting impact on staff, partners, and/or customers?

MassHire Metro South/West Career Center: Odessa DeJesus, Mobile Career Advisor (Ingenuity Award Winner)

Odessa DeJesus and the MassHire Metro South/West Career Center were nominated for the Ingenuity award for her work in collaborating with the Mass Correctional Institute (MCI) Framingham to better prepare inmates for work upon release. When this partnership began, Odessa put together some basic offerings that would allow small groups of women from the correctional facility to become familiar with the center and staff and to register for services. Odessa then transformed the program by creating an outline, tailored workshops, homework assignments, and one-on-one support and encouragement. It is Odessa’s ingenuity and dedication that has transformed this program and enabled the career center to provide something tangible and valuable to their community partner.

Through her work Odessa learned that every individual deserves a second chance and that we all need help when reintegrating back into the workforce. In addition, understanding the audience you are serving is key to designing and implementing any program. By using her previous experience in working with justice involved populations, Odessa is able to better serve MCI customers.

Since COVID-19, Odessa and the career center have had to make a lot of adjustments. Currently, they are working to ensure that those who were participating have permission and access to computers and zoom. While it will not be the same as working with these women in person, Odessa knows that continuing this partnership is vital and is making a difference in people’s lives.

Odessa DeJesus presented a workshop for the Massachusetts workforce development community on the experience that led to her nomination. Click here to view the PowerPoint.

MassHire Downtown Boston Career Center: Susan Buckey, Director of Employer Engagement, MassHire Downtown Boston Career Center; Lauren Jones, Massachusetts Director, Apprenti; and Evan Kenvarg, Program Manager, Apprenti

Susan Buckey and MassHire Downtown Boston Career Center were nominated for the Ingenuity award based on their collaboration with Apprenti to prepare and recruit candidates for Apprenti’s registered apprenticeship program. The partnership further developed after the first cohort when Apprenti realized that while many individuals were accepted in the program based on testing and interviewing, they lacked the skills and confidence needed to succeed during interviews with employer partners. In partnering with Susan and the career center, Apprenti staff saw an opportunity to leverage the expertise of career center staff and apply for grant funding to pay the career center for their services. This resulted in the MassHire Downtown Boston Career Center developing a process flow and curriculum to specifically support Apprenti candidates in their employer interviews. Pre- and post-surveys showed significant impact and better success rates with employer interviews.

Through this partnership, Susan has learned that listening to partner organizations and learning where their pain points are helped career center staff to create a cadre of services to address their partners specific needs. There were some obstacles including getting candidates to fully participate in career center services, but by listening, assessing, and paying attention to the feedback provided by participants and Apprenti, the career center has been able to make improvements with each cohort. Both Susan and Apprenti hope to make this partnership sustainable and are currently exploring different funding streams to support and continue their work.

This partnership has continued through COVID albeit everything has been done virtually. The switch to virtual workshops and mock interviews has gone well and will continue for the foreseeable future. Susan has learned that when you find a committed partner, communicate frequently, and are open to feedback, you can make an impact that goes a long way.

Susan Buckey presented a workshop for the Massachusetts workforce development community on the experience that led to their nomination. Click here to view the PowerPoint.

MassHire Lowell Career Center: Tim O’Connor, Manager, Technology & Quality Assurance

Tim O’Connor and the MassHire Lowell Career Center were nominated for his leadership in instituting an applicant tracking system at the career center. Several years ago, the MassHire Lowell Career Center was looking for options to store and retrieve job seeker resumes. After a lot of research, it became apparent to Tim that an applicant tracking system was what they needed. Under Tim’s leadership, the career center partnered with Bullhorn, a local company, to purchase an IT tool that could better meet the center’s needs. Tim did all the research, worked with Bullhorn on a trial basis, set up the career portal on their website, and has shared what he learned and best practices with his colleagues in the MassHire workforce system.

The Lowell Career Center sees over 6,000 customers a year and works with over 500 employers. As such, an applicant tracking system makes matching job seekers to open postings more efficient and effective. The career portal on the career center website makes it easier for customers to upload their resumes and search for open jobs. In the future, the career center hopes to have all job orders on their career portal and to get all resumes uploaded. This will allow their business services team to fully realize the product’s potential and allow career center staff to better match customers to open positions and effectively measure performance.

According to the MassHire Greater Lowell Workforce Board’s Career Center Performance Committee, this is the type of ingenuity and creativity that the committee looks for. Going forward, Bullhorn will help the career center better serve business customers and job seekers, a key goal of the MassHire system.

Tim O’Connor presented a workshop for the Massachusetts workforce development community on the experience that led to his nomination. Click here to view the PowerPoint.

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