Like many people navigating today’s challenging economy, Oscar Robles was constantly looking for new opportunities to obtain a better job to support his family. He knew he needed additional training to learn new skills to find a more rewarding and better-paying career. When he heard about a new program eligible to low-income individuals interested in a career in advanced manufacturing at Goodwin College, he jumped at the opportunity. While it wasn’t easy, after a year of training, Oscar joined his 11 classmates in a recognition ceremony of the first class of the Manufacturing Career Pathways Collaborative at Goodwin College.
“I wanted to show my kids that it was never too late to learn something new and better yourself,” said Robles. “I got more than I expected when I first started the program and had to overcome a few obstacles. There were a few times that I almost wanted to quit but my classmates and the staff at Goodwin College kept pushing me and supporting me in every way possible to ensure that I stuck with and completed the program.”
The Manufacturing Career Pathways Collaborative is one of the nine collaborations that make up the Hartford Foundation’s $4.4 million Career Pathways Initiative. This effort targets residents with limited literacy and employment skills in the Capitol Region and provides a broad range of coordinated services to meet the needs of this population. The Career Pathways Initiative is one of the key programs in support of the Hartford Foundation’s strategic focus on Family Economic Security which seeks to ensure that all of our region’s residents have access to clear pathways to employment and career advancement that lead to economic security for their families.
Beginning in spring of 2016, Goodwin College and its partners started recruiting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligible participants interested in careers in advanced manufacturing. Participants were recruited through Vernon Adult Education, East Hartford Adult Education, Capital Workforce Partners, and the Connecticut Business and Industry Association. Thirty-five participants were enrolled in a six-week literacy and numeracy boot camp run by Vernon Adult Education and 23 people went on to enroll in classes at Goodwin last September. Students who were part of the Manufacturing Career Pathways Collaborative program attended regular Goodwin classes with other students. Participants were required to successfully complete all their classes as well as industry tests in order to receive their CNC Machining certificate. In addition to the support that Goodwin students received, they met regularly for extra study sessions, tutoring, and had a career pathways manager who was there to help when issues came up with family, transportation or when their confidence was waning.
“Based on Goodwin College’s Educational Opportunity Programs (EOP), the Manufacturing Career Pathways Collaborative model allows students to come together to support each other with the supervision of a case manager, said Lenisa Mathew, Goodwin’s Career Pathways Program manager. “This program allows students to be surrounded by people who genuinely care about their well-being. We believe the support model is a key reason why the program has been successful.”
In addition to the 12 students who have already completed the program, two other students are finalizing one last course. Four of these students will continue on to get their 30-credit certificate in CNC Machining as part of an Associate's degree program at Goodwin College. Capital Workforce Partners and the Connecticut Business and Industry Association are currently working with the other students to place them in employment opportunities that are a fit for both individual and employer needs.
“Completing this program is an enormous accomplishment for participants and will impact the trajectory of the rest of their lives,” said Hartford Foundation Community Investments officer Erika Frank. “This program wouldn't have been successful without the broad range of partners at the table including adult literacy, training and higher education and industry partners, also contributed enormously to its success.”
The boot camp for the second class was just wrapped up, with 22 completing the six week intensive course. Goodwin and its partners are learning from the lessons of this first year so that even more students are successful in the program and make it to graduation in 2018.