Roundtable at the New Bedford Career Center
In recessionary times, it is the career centers that many people turn to for help. This recession is no different and that is why New Directions Southcoast, which operates the Greater New Bedford Career Center, as well as the Wareham Career Center was thrilled to get stimulus funds to not only ensure that the centers could service as many people as possible but that they could also innovate and create new programs to help its clients with its ultimate goal: get a job.

Jeffrey Simon, Director of the Massachusetts Recovery & Reinvestment Office, which runs the stimulus program for the state, made a visit to New Directions at the behest of Governor Deval Patrick, to see firsthand the impact stimulus funds were having on the organization, its staff and its clients.

Recovery Act Impact: Career Centers

  • Recovery funds have made it possible to provide services to over 109,000 individuals seeking employment.

  • Over 636,000 state residents have been able to benefit from the additional Federal Unemployment Compensation.

  • The Commonwealth received three National Emergency Grants (NEGs) to support close to 900 laid-off workers.

Thanks to the Recovery Act, the New Bedford Workforce Investment Board (WIB) was able to provide the Greater New Bedford region with $2.9 million through the State Department of Workforce Development to serve unemployed adults, dislocated workers and youth. New Directions Southcoast received $1.1 million: $248K for adult worker services; $229K for dislocated worker services; and, $634K

Maria Grace and Rebecca Moniz
for Workforce Investment Act youth activities.

According to Maria Grace, the New Bedford Career Center manager, the stimulus funds ensured that there was no stop in services and no wait list, a relief to every one of its clients. But Grace noted that the funds also afforded the centers and the WIBs the ability to be creative, something that was important in this recession in which career centers are seeing clients with a much larger range of skills than was typical. "We were able to offer these people programs to get certification, to learn other skills," she said.

One of those programs is a certification program in sustainable development, which was developed in partnership with the Brockton WIB, the New Bedford WIB, University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth and Bristol Community College. According to Kaisa Holloway Cripps, special project analyst at UMass Dartmouth, the program will launch this September with stimulus funds through the state energy sector partnership (SESP), and is free to qualified students. It involves four

New Bedford WIB andCareer Center Staff and Jeffrey Simon
courses in theoretical and practical applications as well as job placement assistance.

The SESP grant also launched Stepping Stone, a program that consists of a solar training program - an 80-hour training course -- as well as a weatherization training program for dislocated workers, which involves 10 classes over an eight week program. The programs, which are free, include a focus on technical skills as well as job readiness training and job placement assistance. According to Julia Gold, coordinator of Stepping Stone, 12 people have already graduated from the weatherization program and a few have jobs thanks to the connections made with employers through the career center. One graduate, she added is starting his own business with a few other graduates.

The New Bedford Career Center also offers training programs as Rebecca Moniz and her husband Christopher discovered. Christopher Moniz was a truck driver but did not have a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) because the truck he drove did not require it but when he was laid off, it was clear he would not be able to get another job without a CDL license. A stimulus-funded course provided him with the license - and a new job. Rebecca Moniz was laid off after a decade of working her way from a cashier to an operations manager in the retail

New Bedford Career Center Participants
industry. "She had been in retail but without the educational background and she needed that," said Grace. She is now getting that thanks to a stimulus-funded computerized accounting training program at Computer Training Specialists in New Bedford. "The stimulus money affected my whole family," said Rebecca Moniz.

Job placement is also a key element of the career center's success. Deb Rijo, a job specialist at the New Bedford Career Center, noted that the center works closely with the city to place workers at stimulus-funded construction projects throughout the city. "Thanks to ARRA, we are now at the water treatment plant, we're working in the schools and we're working with the Housing Authority," she said.

In addition to the focus on adults, stimulus funding increased the number of youth in the area who received summer employment. Wendy Andrade, director of youth services for New Directions Southcoast, said that the organization was able increase its geographic spread in the region and include 21 to 24 year olds in the program. (Usually, she said, the program stops at 21.) All this meant that last summer the youth program nearly doubled to 750. "We are talking about young people desperately in need of summer employment," said Andrade.

A focus of the summer jobs program for youth was "green training" in which 120 of

Green Brigade Participants
the kids were chosen to participate in a program called Green Brigade developed with Positive Action Against Chemical Addiction (PAACA). The goal of the program, said its executive director Carl Alves was to provide participants with green "twenty-first century" skills.

But Adam, one of the Green Brigade counselors, said the participants got even more from the program. "They learn teamwork, leadership skills and how to take initiative," he said. "We keep them away from bad influences and take them to area colleges. All of a sudden, they start to see college as an option."