MassHire Award Finalists Share Why Reliability is a Core Value for our State Workforce System

MassHire Award Finalists for Reliability

This blog post is the third in a series honoring and highlighting the great work of our MassHire members who were nominated and chosen as finalists for the 2022 MassHire Awards. This blog focuses on the finalists for the Reliability category, including the award winner, Phylis Gedeon, Youth Program Coordinator with the MassHire Springfield 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? 
  • How did the nominee create trust and reliability with colleagues, partners, or customers despite extenuating circumstances or challenges, thus leading to sustainable and exceptional results?

MassHire Springfield Career Center: Phylis Gedeon, Youth Program Coordinator (Reliability Award Winner)

Phylis Gedeon was nominated by her colleagues for her work on an innovative pilot to train young people in weatherization. The MassSave grant which funded the pilot is a collaboration of Eversource, National Grid and other utilities, as they seek to diversify the workforce of the weatherization industry. As Youth Coordinator and point person on this program, Phylis needed to coordinate with youth, employers, and the corporate sponsors. However, her priority is always as a support for the young people she works with, and they know they can trust her to advocate for their needs. 

Phylis is a dedicated staff member, showing up each day at 7AM to make sure that training participants were on time and ready to take the van to the training program. Using “tough love” she called participants who were late and emphasized the importance of being on time. She also facilitated direct communication between the youth and van company so that the young people could get to the training program smoothly.

Phylis stayed very involved throughout the entire training program with each participant, and when it came time for the participants to be placed with employers in internships, she developed the criteria by which the employers could find the best fits for each position and company, and worked with employers to make sure they had the support they needed to work effectively with the youth. 

Since the goal of the program was diversity, Phylis worked with the interns to understand what it feels like to be the only minority in the room. She showed them how to tackle challenging workplace situations as they arise in a professional manner so that it would not have an impact on their participation in the program. The young people trusted her and knew she had their back. Additionally, MassSave came to value Phylis’ expertise and adjusted the training program design to be more successful and responsive to the young people’s experience. MassSave had a different view of community-based agencies after this partnership, recognizing the importance of receiving the engagement and support they offer is necessary if they want a more diverse workforce that their companies were not used to working with.

As described in her nomination, “The more we worked together it became evident to all that Phylis’ success was everyone’s success. It was about guiding the young people and getting diverse workers into the weatherization field. Everyone involved in this project, including the career center, could rely on Phylis to do the right thing…It is Phylis’ reliability that has built her credibility.”

Congratulations Phylis! Your award for reliability is more than well deserved!

Phylis Gedeon will be presenting a workshop for the Massachusetts workforce development community on the experience that led to their nomination on December 1st. Click here to register. Click here for links to register for other MassHire Award Finalist Workshops in November and December.

MassHire Berkshire Career Center: Melanie Herzig, Business Services Representative

If you are wondering why Melanie Herzig was nominated for the MassHire Reliability Award, just read the 8 letters of support from businesses in the Berkshires. Most of Melanie’s time with MassHire Berkshire Career Center has been during a pandemic. For much of it, she was the only Business Services Representative working across the 32 communities they serve. The sheer number of businesses that Melanie has introduced to the Career Center, nevermind built relationships with, astounds. In 2021, Melanie reached out to more than 750 companies. As part of the Workforce Board’s annual monitoring of the Career Center, they reached out to obtain employer feedback about the Business Service Representative. Melanie received rave reviews for her reliability and responsiveness to their needs. Quotes included: “Melanie encouraged us to go after an on-the-job training program,” “Mel Herzig is one of the most trustworthy people we work with,” “Melanie is the backbone of the Career Center and we don’t know what we would have done without her assistance.”

In addition to her strengths in marketing, outreach, and communications, Melanie is also the “go to” person at the Career Center. She is always willing to help a colleague and often fills in to meet a career center need, whether at the front desk, with data entry or technology support, or supporting the Workforce Board when they were short staffed. She arranged biweekly meetings between the Career Center and Workforce Board staff to ensure that we were maximizing our outreach efforts to companies. Due to her efforts the Berkshires have a solid business services team that are well coordinated and responsive to their customers’ needs.

As described in her nomination, “Melanie is positive, energetic, knowledgeable, articulate and always willing to go above and beyond to assist customers, career center staff, and the Workforce Board. Although she has only been in the workforce system for a few years, she has established strong alliances, and the business community views her as the “go to” for all things business services.’ Well done, Melanie! Congratulations on your nomination!

MassHire Metro North Career Center: Debbie Lipton, Career Advisor

Debbie Lipton has been hyper-focused on the success of the pre-apprenticeship carpentry training program, a Career Technical Initiative (CTI) Grant in Metro North, since its inception in early 2021. This grant is focused on recruiting women, particularly women of color, to a field with significant occupational segregation (predominantly one gender and/or race/ethnicity). Applicants enter a competitive application process that awards only ten seats per cohort. For the first cohort, Debbie spoke with close to 70 applicants to fill the 10 available training slots. With the third cohort now underway, Debbie’s work has directly resulted in the recruitment of 19 out of 24 participants to fill these slots. Customers who have graduated are now employed in jobs in carpentry at family sustaining wages and benefits with a career ladder to follow. Debbie’s success came from developing strong partnerships with North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters, Minuteman Technical Institute and others to recruit, deem eligible, assess, advise and assist participants. This partnership continues as they receive additional CTI grants.

In addition to her team members’ trust, Debbie earned the trust of the individuals she was serving as well. For example, when one of the participants contacted her with a workplace issue after beginning her new job, Debbie listened to her with empathy, went to the team for assistance, and was able to help her resolve the problem and successfully retain employment. Without Debbie’s support, this person may have lost their job. Instead, she’s now one of the highest performers on her team.

As Liz Skidmore of the North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters said in her letter of support, “Proof of Debbie’s reliability and dedication can be seen in the numbers…[filling] almost 80% of the [total number of slots]. Those lives are transformed – From being un- or under-employed, these graduates are now earning family­-sustaining wages and benefits. Both individual career seekers and the entire Build It team knew we could count on Debbie’s dedication to go above and beyond to ensure willing career seekers had the chance to get into this important program. We literally would have had less than ¾ of the students without Debbie’s hard work.”

Congratulations Debbie! Your work is an inspiration to so many!

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