For years before the COVID-19 health crisis, most business members of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce shared the same top concern: their workforce.
In response, the Chamber has made workforce development a key function of our services. For the past seven years, we have helped to build recruitment relationships between employers and area colleges and universities; worked one-on-one with employers to start or grow their internship programs; partnered with Worcester Public Schools on career and technical trainings like the Innovation Pathways Program and Worcester Night Life; and have worked closely with other community trainers, employers, and community agencies as a liaison to the business community.
One program seeing an amazing return on investment and offering life-changing career training for participants and much needed talent for employers is the Worcester Jobs Fund. The Chamber has served on the Jobs Fund oversight committee since its creation by Worcester City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. in 2016. Currently chaired by the Chamber and Worcester Interfaith, the committee is comprised of representatives from MassHire Central Region Workforce Board, Worcester Community Labor Coalition, MassHire Central Career Centers, and Worcester Public Schools.
The Jobs Fund’s goal is to ensure that development projects and job expansion efforts in Worcester bring a direct benefit to Worcester residents in the form of jobs, free job training, and related services by preparing and connecting Worcester residents with living-wage employment.
Over the past six years, the Jobs Fund has been funded by the City of Worcester and additional sources including SNAP Employment and Training, Outreach Partner, Department of Transportation, Commonwealth Corporation Learn to Earn Grant, and Workforce Competitive Trust Fund, among others.
For our trainings, we recruit local residents for anticipated job opportunities — especially talented individuals with previous obstacles to employment including veterans, single parents, people of color, people with a past felony conviction, women, people with disabilities, and low-income residents.
The Worcester Jobs Fund training programs are free for selected participants. Through community outreach, the residents interested in these pathways are connected with local service providers for assistance with continued education, skill development, housing, food assistance, or health assistance before beginning the program. Applicants who are not accepted into the program are connected with local services or alternative employment opportunities as applicable.
We are currently recruiting for the following trainings:
The Worcester Building Pathways Pre-Apprenticeship Program allows exploration of trades of such as electrical, painting, roofing, carpentry, and more, to help prepare participants who are underrepresented in the building trades for placement into a union apprenticeship program. After completing the Building Pathways program, Shaina, who was previously working in a per diem position, is now earning $18.86 an hour as a first-year carpentry apprentice working for Tight Line Construction. She is doing metal framing and drywall work for project sites like Polar Park and a high school in Lincoln, Rhode Island.
The Jobs Fund has a five-week Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Class B training which can earn graduates starting wages of $19 an hour, and a five-month CDL Class A training which leads to positions earning $24 an hour or more. Our graduates work at the Department of Public Works (DPW), Polar Beverages, Worcester Regional Transit Authority (WRTA), Coca-Cola, and more — like Jared, who works for ABC Supply Co., Inc. making $20 an hour.
Partnerships with other organizations are a critical way the Jobs Fund leverages funds to maximize trainings available locally. A partnership with the Worcester Public Schools’ Night Life program supports two evening adult education programs. The first is a 21-week clinical medical assistant program that includes externship placement with UMass Memorial Health. The second is a 900-hour diesel technician training that thoroughly prepares individuals for entry level positions in the industry.
If you would like more information about any of these training programs, reach out to Theodora Appiah at 508-373-7641 or AppiahT@masshirecentral.com.
This program supports the economic activities of the Chamber and our community by creating opportunity (especially for underserved communities), keeping jobs local, and supporting our businesses through access to a skilled workforce. The Chamber is proud of this program and our many collaborations. We believe that it can serve as a workforce development model for other communities and as a framework for collaborative solutions to complex problems.
Karen Pelletier is the Executive Vice President at the Worcester Chamber. She can be reached here.
This story was originally published in the August 2021 edition of Chamber Exchange: The Newspaper, a quarterly publication of the Chamber. All newspaper editions are archived here.