MassHire Greater Lowell Workforce Board
June 20, 2019
MassHire Lowell Career Center
107 Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA 01852

Call to Order: 7:59 AM
Presiding Officer:  Ray Wrobel, Chair
Attendees:  Kimberly Bodkin, Cheryl Bomal, Judy Burke, Stephanie Cronin, Maureen Fitzpatrick, Beth Goguen, Charlene Jancsy, Maureen Kriff, Staci Landress, Danielle McFadden, Betty McKiernan, John Palmieri, Andrew Shapiro, Cynthia Smith, Susan Winning. Quorum present.

Staff: Peter Farkas, Lauren MacIsaac, Nancy McGovern, Beatriz Sierra, Shannon Norton, Kathleen Gentile, Cathy Sturtevant
Guest: Tonja Mettlach, Executive Director, Massachusetts Workforce Association

  1. Welcome. Chair Wrobel welcomed the group and introduced Tonja Mettlach, the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Workforce Association (MWA). Ms. Mettlach thanked the board for the invite and gave an overview of the MWA. Ms. Mettlach explained that MWA is a recently combined organization that merged the workforce board association and the career center association.

Mr. Wrobel announced that this is Susan Winning’s last meeting and that she is retiring from UMass Lowell. Mr. Wrobel presented Ms. Winning with flowers.

Mr. Wrobel thanked Ms. Norton and the MassHire Lowell Career Center for hosting the meeting and commented that the group would be hearing from staff regarding the MassHire Awards. Ms. Norton welcomed the group and commented that they were happy to host the board meeting. She stated that they have been in the building for 20 years and they just signed another 10-year lease. Ms. Norton gave a brief history of the building and commented that after Cherry & Webb vacated in the early 1990’s the building was renovated for the Career Center. 

  1. Review and Approval of March 14, 2019 Minutes.
    Chair Wrobel requested review of the March 14, 2019 minutes.  With no comments or questions and a quorum present, Chair Wrobel requested a motion to accept the March 14, 2019 minutes.  Motion made by Stephanie Cronin; seconded by Susan Winning.  All in favor?  Yes. Opposed?  No. Vote: Unanimous.

III.          Presentation: MassHire Award Finalists

Ms. Norton stated that the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development held the first annual MassHire Day on June 13th.  The State accepted nominations for projects, staff, and partners that reflected the values of the MassHire brand: Collaboration, Respect, Ingenuity and Reliability. There was also a “Living the MassHire” category that captures all four values.  Across the 16 workforce regions there were 38 nominations and 17 finalists. The Greater Lowell region was a finalist in 4 of the categories.  All the region’s submitted nominations were finalists.  The finalists were in the following categories: Collaboration, Ingenuity, Reliability, and Living MassHire.  There were presentations by three of the finalists. The fourth finalist was the Northeast Advanced Manufacturing Consortium (NAMC) which was nominated for the Living MassHire award.

Ms. Norton introduced Janet O’Brien for the category of Collaboration. Ms. O’Brien explained that she works on the Competitive Integrated Employment Services (CIES) program which works with low income customers to help mitigate the cliff effect. The program is funded through the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA). One of the customers assisted was Amelia who is a survivor of domestic violence. She removed herself from the situation and needed housing, childcare, additional education and assistance with transportation.  Ms. O’Brien, Meg Gaffney from CTI, and Monika Johnson from Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) collaborated to resolve her barriers.   With their assistance, Amelia entered a scattered housing site with services, her child entered Head Start, and she is pursuing her LPN with the goal of transferring to Middlesex Community College in September.  Ms. O’Brien is most proud of creating change and developing a new model for a crisis intervention team. Ms. Fitzpatrick commented that they see those barriers from the employer side and if they are not addressed the employee can’t be successful. Ms. O’Brien commented that the participant is required to check in everyday and that the process is treated like a job.
Ms. Norton introduced Bob McIntosh and Stacy Thompson for the category of Ingenuity. Ms. Norton commented that they were nominated for the providing a variety of webinars to jobseekers. Mr. McIntosh stated it can be a challenge for customers to attend workshops at the career center.  By offering webinars, customers can receive the workshop content without having to travel to downtown Lowell.  Ms. Thompson stated there are 28 different webinars that are free to customers.   Attendance for the webinars is well over 80% and are well attended.  Ms. Cronin asked if they were seeing results. Ms. Thompson said that there are surveys and measurements for the participants to engage in. Mr. McIntosh stated that the webinars are interactive with the participants able to submit real time questions. Ms. Norton commented Ms. Thompson and Mr. McIntosh won the “Ingenuity” category resulting in a $10,000 prize for the career center.
Ms. Norton introduced Heather Donovan, Supervisor of the Career Center’s Young Adult Department, for the category of Reliability. Ms. Donovan sits on a task force that focuses on mental health in young adults. Ms. Donovan stated the youth department assists with young people obtaining their HiSET/GED including participants in recovery.  Ms. Donovan stated the youth department staff attended mental health first aid to recognize barriers young people may face with mental health.

Ms. Donovan explained how the career center assisted in a young woman in recovery at Megan’s House – a recovery home for young women. Through the services provided, the young women obtained her high school credential and enrolled at Middlesex Community College.  She now works for the Career Center as a summer counselor on the van crew assisting other students. 

  1. Workforce Board Report
    Chair Wrobel indicated that after Mr. Farkas gave the update that there would be 2 motions for approval to allow the Executive Committee to approve the FY’20 Annual Plan and corresponding budget.  Peter Farkas, Executive Director, provided an update on the following board activities:

National Association of Workforce Board’s Conference
Mr. Farkas stated he and Chair Wrobel attended the National Association of Workforce Board’s 2019 Annual Forum in Washington DC.  The forum convenes 1,500 workforce development professionals and leaders in business, government, labor, and education gather to gain insights into the current state of our nation’s workforce system.  Through the Massachusetts Workforce Association, meetings were held on Capitol Hill with the offices of Congressmen Keating, Lynch, Kennedy, Moulton and Senator Markey to inform them of workforce development priorities in the federal budget.

FY’20 WIOA Funding
Mr. Farkas stated the region has received a decrease of 12.9% or $192,559 in federal funding through the US Department of Labor for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Adult, Dislocated Worker, and Youth programs.   Overall, Massachusetts experienced an overall decrease in WIOA funding of 5.7% or $1.7M.

Mr. Farkas stated that since FY’16, the region has seen a decrease in federal funding of $492k or 27.5%.  The impact of the cuts is fewer  job seekers receive skills training and intensive services. Due to substantial cuts in federal funding, the board has focused on diversifying its funding streams by pursuing state and private foundation grants.

Grants/Resource Development
Mr. Farkas provided an update on grant and resource development. Since the March quarterly meeting, Mr. Farkas stated that the region received 5 new grants totaling $2.97M. Mr. Farkas thanked the staff for their work on developing the proposals.  The National Health Emergency Disaster Recovery Dislocated Worker grant to address the opioid crisis was awarded in April.  The region held a press event resulting in a front page article in the Lowell Sun.  Mr. Farkas gave a broad overview of the $2.4M grant.  There will be 3 positions hired to work on the grant – project manager, career advisor, and business service representative. Ms. Smith asked what role the grant partners have in grant implementation. Mr. Farkas indicated that they would be providing referrals, worksites and co-location for staff.

Mr. Farkas provided an overview of the 4 other competitive grants received:

  • $100,000 from Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) to provide pre-employment training services to youth with disabilities. The career center will be hiring a counselor to work on this project.
  • $364,334 from the Department of Transitional Assistance for the Competitive Integrated Services (CIES) program. The grant provides career readiness, training, and job development assistance to recipients of public assistance.
  • $17,000 planning grant from Commonwealth Corporation. The goal is to develop a machining training program for the returning citizens population.
  • $40,000 pilot program from Commonwealth Corporation to connect the summer YouthWorks participants (subsidized employment) to the Connecting Activities program (unsubsidized employment).

FY’20 Annual Plan
               Mr. Farkas walked through a slide on the FY’20 Annual Plan process.  The region is still awaiting guidance from the MassHire Department of Career Services on the submission timeline and documents.

Mr. Farkas indicated the Workforce Performance and Opportunities Committee reviews Career Center performance and will recommend the FY’20 service level goals for job seekers and employers.  The committee’s recommendation will go to the Executive Committee for approval before submission to the MassHire Department of Career Services.

Two motions:

  • Wrobel asked for a motion to allow the Executive Committee to approve the FY’20 Annual Plan including the integrated budget. Motion made by Betty McKiernan; 2nd by Kimberly Bodkin. Unanimous
  • Wrobel asked for a motion to allow the Executive Committee to approve a potential transfer of funds from the Adult program to the Dislocated Worker program. Motion by Betty McKiernan; 2nd Kimberly Bodkin. Unanimous

Mr. Farkas thanked Ms. Winning for participation on the board and working on various projects such as the summer intern program and labor projects. He congratulated her on her retirement. Ms. Winning thanked everyone and hoped that the programs would continue.

  1. Adjourn

Chair Wrobel thanked everyone for attending. The Chair asked if there was any other business. Seeing none, the Chair requested a motion to adjourn.  With no other business, motion made by Stacy Landress; seconded by Elizabeth McKiernan.  All in favor? Yes.  Opposed?  No.  Unanimous.  The meeting adjourned at 9:02 AM.