Secure Jobs Advisory Committee
September 6, 2016

In attendance: Ashley Brehm, HAPHousing, C. Diluzio, Veterans Inc., Dawn DiStefano, Square One, Madeline Martinez, HAPHousing, Bill Mulholland, Berkshire Community College, Maegan Pedemonit, HAPHousing, George Ryan, Hampden County Regional Employment Board, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Maricelli Serrano, BerkshireWorks, Chris Skerritt, HAPHousing, Pamela Wotjkowski, BerkshireWorks

Review of Progress Report for July/August FY17: Click here
July signaled start of new contract year. DHCD award to Western region (via HAP as lead agency) is for $120,000 (about half as much as previous year due to budget cuts, although a portion of funding was performance-based and HAP received maximum amount due to the program’s outstanding performance). Placement goal for the year is 37 but the program has already placed 22 individuals in employment in the first 2 months alone. Congratulations to all.

Welcome to Chris Skerritt, HAP’s new employment specialist. They have developed a cohort curriculum that is working very well (they have convened 2 cohorts thus far).

Support for Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire Counties:
HAP is in the process of getting clear on nature of support to Berkshire County (via BerkshireWorks) and Franklin/Hampshire counties (via FH Career Center). Likely on case-by-case basis, when someone fits SJ criteria, limited resources will be available to support specific needs such as training dollars or client allowance. The allocation for discretionary support was substantially cut due to overall budget cuts so very few dollars available overall. May also incorporate limited performance-based contract (i.e., some reimbursement based on placements). This will be clarified over the next month.

Additional fundraising efforts:
Ashley shared that she is focusing this year on expanding financial base of support for the program so not reliant exclusively on yearly state funding. One key exploration is reimbursement by the SNAP program (45% reimbursement for a range of employment and training services once budget is approved). Must be exclusively a SNAP recipient without additional benefits (e.g., no TAFDC recipient would qualify). This will be a test year to ascertain potential leverage with this resource.

BerkshireWorks update:
Most referrals for Secure Jobs come from Berkshire Housing (HomeBASE or RAFT recipients). Clients are incorporated in the ongoing work readiness program (CEIS).

 Berkshire Community College Update:
Bill Mulholland updated the group on the Working Cities Grant – $500,000 over 3 years – that in Berkshire County will focus on the Bridges program, an effort to bring in non-profits and other entities to develop greater access to job opportunities. Huge challenges exist in transportation, language barriers and above all creating an environment of inclusion and awareness of opportunity for all. This is an exciting opportunity.   A specific big challenge in Berkshire County is also the aging population and the number of anticipated retirements in the years ahead. Berkshire Health Systems is especially concerned and would like to focus on the necessary train ing and language learning opportunities to ensure a work force that meets the community needs.

Secure Jobs Advisory Committee focus this year:
The group discussed the mission of our Advisory Committee for the coming year. There was consensus that the Committee’s most useful function is to serve as a vehicle for advocacy around policy changes that would improve outcomes for Secure Jobs (and related employment efforts). We agreed we should further consider moving to quarterly meetings and using these meetings to bring together legislators to hear our successes, challenges and recommendations for reform. Towards this end, we agreed we would use our next October meeting to invite Rep. Kocot and Rep. Vega, our 2 Committee legislators, to brainstorm this concept and help move it forward.

Initial brainstorm on policy concerns included:

  • child care
  • public transportation
  • ESL
  • Housing for hard-to-house families

We agreed we would pose 2 possible dates to the legislators: Wed., Oct. 5 at 11 am (our usual meeting time) or Friday, Oct. 7 in the morning (since Fridays are frequently easier for legislators). Pamela will report back to the group as soon as she hears back.

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