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Workforce team celebrates 20 years helping residents find career paths

Mon Valley Initiative’s Workforce Development & Financial Coaching program celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2021.

Since 2001, MVI coaches have been helping people re-enter the workforce by providing them with referrals to training and educational opportunities, resume creation help, job-interview practice sessions, on-site job fairs, advice for individuals with criminal backgrounds and personalized career planning advice.

MVI also works with hundreds of employers and recruiters in the Greater Pittsburgh area to match program participants with job openings in Allegheny, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

COVID-19 shutdowns and business closures caused a drop in program participation and job placements in 2020, says T. Charles Howell IV, director of workforce development & financial coaching, but as the job market recovered, the program came roaring back in 2021.

In all of 2020, MVI coaches placed 123 people in 147 jobs. So far in 2021, MVI has enrolled 241 people in the workforce program—about 87 percent of the goal for the entire year—and placed 144 people in new jobs.

Over the past 18 months, MVI’s coaches also have been working to identify new employer-partners that offer sustainable, long-term employment for program participants, and that effort is paying off, Howell says.

Many of the job placements for program participants in 2021 have been with employers who are new to working with MVI, he says.

One strong feature of MVI’s workforce program has been its free computer classes. Classes were suspended during 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but resumed in 2021. Taught by Joyce Evans, MVI’s longtime computer teacher, those classes cover skills ranging from saving and sharing email attachments to creating documents in Microsoft Word, Excel and other business-oriented applications.

In addition, in 2021, MVI added a 10-week pre-employment certificate program that covers topics such as “writing resumes that win,” virtual interviewing, cultural diversity and credit and employment.

“The certificate classes are designed to cover a variety of topics to help people navigate the minefields of preparing to work in an environment changed by technology and COVID-19,” Howell says.

The third round of the 10-week courses concluded Oct. 19 and the certificate has proved to be a valuable addition to the workforce team’s offerings, he says.

Mon Valley Initiative