MassHire Respect Award Finalists Highlight the Importance of Building Strong Relationships with Customers During the Pandemic

This blog post is the first 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 Respect category, including the award winner, MassHire Lowell Career Center for Janet O’Brien and Kathy Dupont’s work to advance services for disadvantaged customers. Finalists from several value categories will be offering virtual workshops in September and October. To learn more and register, click here.

MassHire Lowell Career Center, Janet O’Brien, Senior Career Advisor and Kathy Dupont, Career Advisor (Respect Award Winner)

Janet and Kathy, who are members of MassHire Greater Lowell Career Center’s “Retention Team,” were nominated for the hard work, respect, and creativity they display while assisting disadvantaged customers after job placement.

The MassHire Lowell Career Center has received various philanthropic funding to assist customers post-employment. This funding allows Janet, Kathy and the team to provide two years of intense follow- up and support to certain customers post-employment. The funding also presents an opportunity for the Career Center to blend and braid services in order to support long-term retention for local employers and to keep their customers focused on career path goals.

Kathy, who provides the day-to-day services on the Retention Team, focuses on retention, advancement, and economic self-sufficiency by taking a two generation approach to her work. Under this approach, the Career Center holds events that engage children, while also allowing time to discuss any issues or barriers their parents might be experiencing. Examples of events geared towards the entire family (pre-covid) include Halloween parties and pizza nights. In addition, by developing trusting relationships with the Retention Team from day one, customers know they have someone to turn to when difficulties arise and before their employment is affected.

The team worked exceptionally hard in 2020 when COVID-19 impacted customers in a variety of ways, including offering additional services to help families cope while being at home. The Retention Team even applied for and were awarded a grant from Walmart to help families afford school supplies.

This team will present a workshop for the Massachusetts workforce development community on the experience that led to their nomination on October 14th at 11AM. Click here to register.

MassHire Franklin Hampshire Career Center – Front Desk and UI Team: Sophie Martin, Rose Fanning, Bonnie Ellis, and Sylvia Michaels

The Front Desk and UI Team at the MassHire Franklin Hampshire Career Center was nominated for their knowledgeable, respectful, and compassionate approach to working with customers with unemployment insurance (UI) issues.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, this team has assisted over 2,000 UI claimants via remote telephone assistance; a remarkable achievement given the volume of assistance needed in the region.

The Front Desk Team, which includes Sophie and Rose, continued to offer consistent and quality support for customers who found themselves out of work but unable to collect UI benefits. The Front Desk Team worked hand-in-hand with the UI Team which included Sylvia and Bonnie. Sylvia and Bonnie helped UI customers who previously had been unable to connect with anyone who could help solve their claim. They also used their decades of UI experience to make a real difference to those who called the Career Center needing UI assistance. This not only earned both teams high customer service scores in Career Center Customer Surveys but it also provided customers with the opportunity to talk one-on-one and receive real time information and guidance.

Sophie, Rose, Bonnie and Sylvia truly understand the stress that their customers are facing. They treat every customer with respect and exhibit the type of calm and patient demeanor which allows customers to feel truly listened to.

MassHire Bristol Career Center – IT Team: Kevin Lisi, IT Coordinator; Joann Rego, Lab Coordinator; and Barbara Irla, Lab Instructor

The IT Technology Team at the MassHire Bristol Career Centers was nominated for their ability to quickly and expertly help the Career Centers standup remote services to customers when the public health crisis began.

Kevin, Joann, and Barbara conceptualized and executed the standup and adoption of various IT solutions, while becoming experts and teaching their colleagues simultaneously. They not only worked quickly, but they worked with a great deal of patience and empathy while educating staff with varying levels of technological abilities.

According to their supervisors, the IT Team went “above and beyond” to transform the way that the career centers operate since March of 2020. In addition, they collaborated with MassHire Department of Career Services, the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security, and the MassHire Bristol Leadership team to envision and then execute a comprehensive plan to provide remote services to customers.

Due to the hard work of the IT Team, MassHire Bristol was able to serve 3,985 jobseeker customers remotely through February 20, 2021. Going forward, the system improvements that Kevin, Joann, and Barbara helped implement will allow MassHire Bristol Career Centers to move seamlessly into what the future holds for the workforce system post-pandemic and beyond.

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