First published by MassLive, March 6, 2018.
Springfield Works will use $75,000 it received last week from the state to expand efforts to mentor and guide job seekers all the way from initial assessment to employment.
Director Anne Shecrallah Kandilis said Springfield Works will also use the money to expand financial literacy programs aimed at easing the transition form public assistance to self-sufficiency in ways that keep folks from losing necessary services and benefits before they are really ready to go it alone.
The state awarded $500,000, including $75,000 to Springfield Works, through the Urban Agenda Grant Program designed to promote economic development in Massachusetts through the building of community partnerships in addressing obstacles to employment.
Springfield Works is part of the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts, and its aim is to simplify both the search for jobs and employers’ search for workers.
It uses SkillSmart, an online portal at springfieldworks.skillsmart, where job seekers can catalog their experience, education and work history, see what available jobs they qualify for and learn what training is available that they would need for open jobs. It’s the same online portal MGM Springfield is using to fill its 3,000 jobs. Employers and cities elsewhere also use SkillSmart.
Kandilis said SkillSmart is starting to catch on here even though she’s only got about 100 jobs listed thus far in addition to MGM.
“I have employers calling me every day,” she said. “So certainly the demand for the portal is really great.”
Kandilis said she has 320 job seekers signed up right now and she spent a recent day at the Springfield Public Library signing up more. MGM Springfield has a database of 8,000 job seekers.
“I want a thousand in our portal,” she said.
There are 43 separate agencies and organizations provide workforce training in the city and surrounding communities. Springfield Works’ job is give jobs seekers and those looking to hire one-stop-shopping.
“I think there is a disconnect,” Kandilis said. “Our job is to get people moving from program to program, step-by-step, and on to a job.”
The portal launched in October.
Just 58 percent of Springfield’s working-age population is working or looking for work, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Springfield Works received a $475,000 Working Cities Challenge grant through the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in 2016.
While directed at Springfield residents, the portal is open to any area job seeker or employer, Kandilis said.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said in a news release that he is thankful for Gov. Charlie Baker’s support of Springfield and its workforce.
“I’m proud to support this initiative, which will help advance the city’s economy by enhancing and strengthening the connectivity between employers who need qualified workers to support operations and growth to Springfield residents in need of work,” Sarno said. “I’m also appreciative of our EDC and Springfield Works Director Anne Kandilis’ continued and dedicated efforts in leading this initiative.”