SER Metro-Detroit: Pennsylvania CareerLink

SER Metro-Detroit: Pennsylvania CareerLink

Pennsylvania CareerLink is just one example of the services provided by SER Metro-Detroit, a SER Affiliate that has grown from a small community resource serving Southwest Detroit residents in 1971 to a multi-service, multi-state corporation serving as a direct link to gainful employment of diverse populations.

“At Pennsylvania CareerLink, we meet our job seekers right where they are and gauge their needs so that they can achieve their professional and personal goals,” said Gizela Burnside, EARN Director, reminiscing on a past job seeker. The woman had experienced many personal and physical challenges, but she obtained a full-time job with the help of the SER team and her Workforce Advisor through CareerLink.

The CareerLink West office, located in West Philadelphia, is made up of 64 full-time staff and seven interns. These advisors, job developers and instructors specialize in a broad array of services, such as job matching, obtaining employment and training referrals, and instructing workshops and orientations.

“SER Metro has taken the worst-performing CareerLink in the Philadelphia system and turned it around. We are now number one in Philadelphia. Not only has our performance increased, but we are working to get our customers jobs that pay a higher rate which lead to more self-sufficiency,” said Chris Paul, Site Administrator for Pennsylvania CareerLink and SER Metro-Detroit’s Regional Director for Pennsylvania.

CareerLink has paired with major employers in the Philadelphia area to provide jobs for the unemployed, including the University of Pennsylvania, Jefferson Hospital and Drexel University.

Recently, CareerLink hosted a job fair with more than 80 employers and 700 job seekers in attendance. Over 100 job seekers were hired instantly and dozens more were hired after the companies completed the hiring process. 

“In fiscal year 17-18 we enrolled 90 percent of the clients who walked through our door, we continued to strengthen our returning citizens programs, and we helped over 1,000 Philadelphia residents obtain and maintain employment,” said Paul.

Last year, CareerLink serviced about 40,000 job seekers, mostly from inner-city communities in Philadelphia.

“After spending my early years at SER Metro-Detroit, it is wonderful to see the excellence of that affiliate’s programs continuing to create so many opportunities and change lives,” said Ignacio Salazar, president and CEO of SER National. “SER Metro-Detroit is an example of how hard work, commitment and compassion can help people get back on their feet and on the road to a fulfilling life.”

CENTRO CHA – Long Beach, CA

CENTRO CHA – Long Beach, CA

Latinos make up 44.5 percent of the population in Long Beach, Calif., making it the city’s largest demographic but also one of the poorest. Latinos in Long Beach work mainly in service and manual labor jobs and many do not have health insurance, according to the Economic Profile of the Latino Community in Long Beach.

The profile was spearheaded and presented by SER affiliate, Centro CHA, a grassroots, community-based nonprofit organization providing quality, necessary and compassionate services to more than 5,000 families from underserved, impoverished Latino neighborhoods. The driving force of the report was the question – how do we increase the quality of life for Latinos in the city of Long Beach?

The profile provided key data on population, education, employment, income, poverty and health for the 214,000 Latinos that live in Long Beach. Attendees at the first Latino Economic Summit had the opportunity to not only learn more about the Latino community in Long Beach, but also to engage in meaningful conversations about public policy, community engagement strategies and the need for future research.

“Centro CHA is advancing the community by working to promote economic equity and civic engagement for Latino youth and families in Long Beach,” said Jessica Quintana, the organization’s executive director.

In order to keep up with the growing rate of Latinos in Long Beach and to successfully carry out its mission, Centro CHA activated programs throughout the community that include workforce development, parent services and citizenship/immigration integration.

In one participant’s own words, “Robby and Denny were such helpful case managers. I now have two jobs and I am returning for more training. When you are serious about employment, they match that energy and help you get it done.”

Over the last year, Centro CHA has made significant impacts in the community, including providing legal application services and assisting 974 residents to successfully pass the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Exam to become new U.S. citizens and voters.

Centro CHA also made an impact in the lives of 200 youth through its Face Forward Youth Diversion/Reentry Program. The program targets at-risk youth ages 16-24 and offers free job training in many areas, including CA Food Handler Certification, Personal Caregiver and CPR/First-Aid Training, Forklift Operator Certification, Refinery Safety Overview Certification, Customer Service and Retail Certification and Guard Card License.

Centro CHA continues to serve and improve the Long Beach Latino community through partnerships and collaborations.

One partner, the Long Beach S.A.F.E. Initiative, focuses on reducing violence and encouraging youth development throughout the community. The initiative hosts the “Summer Night Lights” program, which keeps parks open late through the summer and provides a safe place for families and kids to interact.

Centro CHA has also experienced success through the Every Student Matters (ESM) campaign, which led to the Long Beach Unified School District passing a resolution to terminate the use of suspensions and expulsions as disciplinary actions in schools.

Through another Centro CHA collaboration, California State University hosted a summit that strictly focused on the Boys and Men of Color Initiative. The summit encouraged students to graduate high school, provided college and career options, and prepared them to become constructive citizens.

“The leadership, research and outreach of Centro CHA truly fulfill SER National’s promise to transform lives and communities through education, employment and empowerment,” said Ignacio Salazar, president and CEO of SER National. “We thank them for their important work that results in changed lives.”

SERJobs Houston

SERJobs Houston

After the long-term ramifications in the Houston area brought on by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, SERJobs continued to move forward successfully in 2018 with a new location, new executive director, and expanded geographical reach and services.

SERJobs supports, trains, educates and places roughly 4,000 job seekers each year who come from low-income backgrounds or who have barriers to employment. The goal is to break the cycle of poverty by helping low-income individuals reach long-term financial stability while simultaneously responding to the region’s ever-changing workforce needs.

“SERJobs is unique because we serve individuals that are often facing more challenges than most, including those returning to communities after incarceration and youth or young adults ages 16-24 who are disconnected from school and work,” said Sheroo Mukhtiar, Executive Director and CEO of SERJobs in Houston.

The agency’s services are provided at no cost to the participant, including career coaching, occupational training, job search assistance, and financial coaching. The organization also places an emphasis on Paid Work Experience (PWE) and On the Job Training (OJT) whenever possible, both as a tool for employer engagement, an opportunity for hands-on learning, and as a tool for participant retention. This is particularly critical for participants who are already at a low income level, as dedicating several weeks in a full-time training program without income is a major hardship. Whenever possible, SERJobs offers paid work experience or some sort of stipend to help minimize barriers to success. Further, SERJobs truly engages its employer partners at various levels – from helping design or modify curriculum to interacting with students during classes, to hosting mock interviews and/or hiring events directly.

According to Ciara Major, Senior Manager of Grants and Communications at SERJobs, corporate partners understand what SER brings to the table. Just as they listen to clients in need of better jobs, the SERJobs team listens to what a business needs and creates services and connections to meet those needs. They have worked closely with companies to come up with specific curriculum they need to fill their workforce gaps.  “They are investing in SER because in doing so, they are investing in their own people. When you invest in people, they turn around and invest back into you. It just makes business sense,” said Major.

The more invested corporate partners become with SERJobs– even beyond funding – the more benefits they see. One company abandoned all its other hiring pipeline contractors because the SERJobs process brought them trained employees more quickly, shortened the onboarding process and reduced turnover.

SERJobs operates a youth and young adults service contract through the local workforce board, and their performance was so impressive in the 9 counties they served previously that the workforce board expanded their reach to the 13 counties that make up the Houston-Galveston Area Council region last year.

When asked what makes SERJobs so good at what they do, the SERJobs team is the common answer.

“They have local knowledge and are strongly cemented in the community throughout all of our counties. You can’t force your own priorities on a person. You must listen to their needs and respond to those needs. The staff speaks their language, literally and figuratively. They help them find their special gifts and where they can flourish, transforming their own lives, their family’s situation, their employers and the community in which they live,” said Mukhtiar.

As part of the agency’s move to their new location, SERJobs opened La Chamba Coffee & Careers as a social enterprise that also provides transitional job placement and hands-on training. In 2018, SERJobs also rebranded and launched a new website. All of these changes are helping SERJobs create more opportunities and services for Houston areas residents.

The organization’s move to a new location had been a labor of love for several years, and when Harvey hit, the standing water was so bad in the renovated building they had to repour the foundation. But the SERJobs team did what they needed to do to keep providing the services on which so many rely. Today, from SER’s new Workforce Opportunity Center in Houston’s East End, they provide access to education, training, employment, and financial empowerment for disconnected youth and adults.

SERJobs Houston
SERJobs Houston

In order to address the needs of the community today and tomorrow, SER has launched an $11 million Investing in the Future Capital Campaign. Funds will support SER’s proposed 20,000-square-foot Workforce Training Center (WTC), which will provide critical space for hands-on training and economic mobility for neighbors in need of opportunity. The WTC will provide a direct pipeline of specialized trainings, especially to prospective employers of industries involved in Hurricane Harvey and similar recovery efforts, to more than 800 low-to-moderate income individuals annually. SERJobs will continue to be a training hub for a variety of industries: construction, manufacturing, transportation, and infrastructure. They will launch and expand training for disaster recovery areas of the construction trades and develop new training tracks based on labor market demands.

“SERJobs understands that there is a lot of human potential that doesn’t get realized because opportunities are not availed to them,” said Janey Appia, Chairman of the SER National Board of Directors.  “The unemployment rate may be low, but too many are underemployed. People need to feel power and purpose in their lives to make sustainable changes for themselves and their families. We need to put them in family-sustaining jobs and careers to make a valuable impact. We are thankful for the transforming work that SERJobs takes on each day.”