The following Member Spotlight is a summary from the interview with Whitney Harmel, vice president of membership and development at the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, and Gary Antonino, chief business development officer at NCIA’s Herbert J. Hoelter Vocational Training Center, regarding their COVID-19 response. The full interview is included in the video below.
The National Center on Institutions and Alternatives (NCIA) was founded in 1977. The non-profit has four divisions: Adult Services, Criminal Justice Services, Youth in Transition School, and the Herbert J. Hoelter Vocational Training Center.
The Herbert J. Hoelter Vocational Training Center was founded in Baltimore in 2017 to support homeless individuals, veterans, and returning citizens. Graduates of the program receive an industry recognized certification and have opportunities for gainful employment. The graduation rate for the program is 71% with an average wage for graduates of $19 an hour.
The training center has many partners across the state of Maryland, several of which include: the Department of Labor, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), United Way, the Family League of Employment, and the Mayor’s Office of Baltimore. Additionally, the training center works with 80-90 employers to guide the curriculum, ensuring graduates receive much-needed industry specific skills and certifications.
One of the pillars of the program is the support given to participants throughout their training, including post-graduation with the goal of keeping graduates gainful employed through adversity.
This support has been exemplified during the COVID-19 pandemic. Technology was provided to program participants to allow them to continue their training remotely and is currently holding strong with an average daily participation rate of 94%. This remote training includes new platforms and online simulators which allow participants to receive necessary hands-on skills.
This shift has only been possible due to the all-hands-on-deck approach taken by the staff. The majority of the staff is working online, with social distancing measures in place for employees that need to utilize workshop spaces. The instructors have implemented incentive programs for maintaining class attendance as well as offering additional homework support.
Antonino is working to bring this program into institutions as the remote platform has created an opportunity for re-entry citizens. Participants would be able to begin training before release, shortening the certification process from 15 weeks to 6 weeks. This allows at-risk individuals gainful employment earlier, when they most need it.
For more information on this impactful organization, click here.
Click here to view up-to-the-minute COVID-19 resources on the Maryland Chamber of Commerce’s COVID-19 resources page.