By Philip White, Workforce Development Manager, La Colaborativa
La Colaborativa and its community are so grateful for the important publications and development work being generated through Catapult, by the Boston Foundation, SkillWorks, Jerry Rubin and Jewish Vocational Services.
During a time when many organizations, governments and institutions are dealing with crises within their teams and immediate communities, populations that are very sensitive to economic changes have been forced to shift toward looking locally for immediate support and resources. La Colaborativa has adapted its workforce development function to the socioeconomic instability and changes caused by the COVID-19 crisis, which is starkly felt in a population already caught in political and economic unpredictability. Chelsea was hit exceptionally hard by economic, social and political dilemmas at the onset of COVID-19: As an immigrant community with a large population in food service and hospitality, the conditions within the community deteriorated as unemployment increased and government assistance flowed to other regions. Considering the research and models published by the Boston Foundation and JVS, La Colaborativa has been able to adopt an agile workforce development approach, supplying direct service and aid where community members indicate they currently need it most.
Though unemployment has increased significantly in Chelsea, this lack of labor demand is allowing our community members to pursue endeavors they previously were putting on hold. Many community members are becoming more engaged with language classes, tech skills, professional skills and certification courses. This trend of growth and education during such a tumultuous time will allow our community to access more equitable work post-pandemic and generate more economic stability, with economic mobility following soon after.
With more community members accessing our workforce development services, the population is becoming more aware of La Colaborativa’s full scope of direct services and increasing overall community engagement. Workforce development functions paired with housing and food support are providing the community with a stable platform upon which they can build economic independence, stability and mobility. The Catapult Papers provided a strong framework for assessing transferable skills in a highly volatile employment market, boosting employer engagement, and mitigating barriers to employment for our community. The onset of the COVID-19 crisis forced most organizations to adapt to changing conditions, and in Chelsea we were able to build upon the workforce development principles and expand capacity where the community needs it most. Aligning La Colaborativa’s workforce development strategy with that of the Catapult Papers reassures us that our efforts are in step with other community organizations, providing continuity of service across the Metro Boston region.
Workforce development is an essential part of uplifting the Chelsea community, to ensure quality jobs and build awareness around potential workplace exploitation. La Colaborativa is so appreciative of the work around the Catapult Papers and its impact on the community, and the foundation of workforce development pedagogy for application in Chelsea and surrounding communities.