MassHire Respect Award Finalists Highlight the Importance of Building Trust and Relationships with Customers

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 2022 MassHire Awards. This blog focuses on the finalists for the Respect category, including the award winner, MassHire Lowell Career Center for Madeline Colon-Rivera’s work on the JobsPLUS Program through the Lowell Housing Authority. 

MassHire Lowell Career Center, Madeline Colon-Rivera, Career Advisor (Respect Award Winner)

As a key team member of the MassHire Lowell Career Center, Madeline Colon-Rivera was nominated and won for her respect and commitment to providing intensive services and support to a diverse group of career center customers through the JobsPLUS program.

Madeline has been a Career Advisor for nearly 18 years. In this time, she has worked with customers with multiple barriers to employment and education who have engaged in the various programs the career center offers. Currently, she represents the MassHire Lowell Career Center in the innovative JobsPLUS program at the Lowell Housing Authority. This program, which is funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, aims to deliver employment and training services to residents living at the North Common Village low-income housing site. These residents have an unemployment rate of over 50%, speak limited English, and many are dealing with the impacts of generational poverty.

The goal of the JobsPLUS program is to build self-sufficiency through living wage employment while covering the cost of the residents’ rent as wages increase. In the year since joining the JobsPLUS program, Madeline has enrolled 134 residents into programming services and connected 37 residents to new jobs for an average salary of $16.43 per hour. Part of what makes Madeline so successful is that she respects her customers while always being truthful. She lets them know exactly where they stand, what they need to do to achieve success, and is their biggest advocate every step of the way. For many of the individuals Madeline works with, the positive feedback they hear from Madeline is the first time they have been validated and had someone believe in their abilities. 

According to her supervisor, Madeline “effortlessly finds a balance between empathy with our participants while also holding them accountable. A consummate professional, she is able to seamlessly navigate personalities amongst colleagues, residents, and participants of the program.” Congratulations Madeline for your nomination and selection as the 2022 Respect Category Winner!

Madeline will present a workshop for the Massachusetts workforce development community on the experience that led to her nomination on November 17th. Click here to register. 

MassHire Holyoke Career Center – Mass Internet Connect Team

The Mass Internet Connect team at the MassHire Holyoke Career Center was nominated for its active and successful participation in the state’s Mass Internet Connect (MIC) program.

The Mass Internet Connect program, launched in January 2021, is a partnership between Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC), MassHire Department of Career Services (MDCS), and the MassHire Career Center System to ensure job seekers are provided information and access to the necessary technology devices and internet access for “getting people back to work”. When the MIC program was announced, the Mass Internet Connect team at MassHire Holyoke was formed and immediately embraced this program.

Since March 28, 2022, the MassHire Holyoke team has distributed Chromebooks to 1,229 individuals (25% of the statewide total), assisted 183 customers (51% of statewide total) in applying for the federal Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB)/Affordable Connectivity Program, and has led the state in MIC services to Veterans. In addition, the MassHire Holyoke team ensured customers enrolled in MIC and EBB were also contacted to discuss and encourage the use of the career center’s jobseeker services as part of the process. The team credits its success to its customer-centered service philosophy. 

For MassHire Holyoke, access to digital services and devices is not a luxury but a necessity and a core requirement for those job searching or training within the workforce system. Digital access has allowed their customers with transportation, daycare, and scheduling issues to participate more fully, and to choose the best options available from across the state.

As highlighted below, many MassHire Holyoke staff are involved in this on-going effort, within all jobseeker programs and departments, especially Youth, Re-entry and Recovery, Veterans, and Career Counseling. Moreover, the IT department regularly helps to distribute devices to customers needing hands-on support. MassHire Holyoke’s involvement with the MIC program – providing devices, access to financial support, basic digital literacy, all in coordination with its job search services – offered customers with digital barriers the respect and tools essential to full engagement in job search, employment, and career development. Congratulations to the entire MassHire Holyoke Mass Internet Connect team which includes:

  • Norma Cabral, Director of Information Technology 
  • Ashley Bonilla, IT Specialist
  • Tom Thacher, Director of Data Analysis
  • Kate Smith, Director of Counseling Services 
  • Rodney Evans, Veterans Rep Employment Counselor 
  • Melinda Fitzsimmons, R&R Program Support Specialist 
  • Kevin Lamson, Recovery Integration Specialist 
  • David Serrano, Employment Specialist 
  • Anira Moreno, Employment Specialist 
  • Kristy Reillo-Rosado, Employment Specialist 
  • Yaritza Cruz-Baez, Director of Youth Services 
  • Bud Delphin, VP of Programs & Services

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