PIC E-Newsletter Issue 1.4
As we enter the holiday season, the Private Industry Council has much to be thankful for! We are now entering our 30th year of serving individuals and families in southwestern Pennsylvania, and we are so grateful to everyone who has helped along the way.
The holidays are a wonderful time to celebrate family and the good things we have in our lives, but they can also be a very stressful time for families in need. Our programs are here to help families navigate available resources and set families on a firm footing. We are just a phone call away.
Thank you for joining us for another edition of the e-newsletter! Enjoy--and have a great holiday season!
Included in this issue are:
- Head Start of Beaver County Administrative Offices Settle in at the Mall
- In the Spotlight: TravelEDGE
- New Kensington JET Program Provides a Personal Touch for Job Seekers
- PIC Marks 30 Years of Serving Southwestern Pennsylvania
- Sharing Stories of Perseverance and Accomplishment
- Pilot Program Helped PIC Prepare for Coming GED® Test Changes
- A Season of Giving
MONACA, Pa. – In mid-October, the Head Start of Beaver County's administrative office officially opened at the Beaver Valley Mall in Monaca. Located next to the Macy's, the office is easily accessible to any parents interested in enrolling their children in the Head Start of Beaver County program.
The 6,999 sq. ft. space houses Head Start managers, supervisors, a nutritionist, a data operator, home-based instructors, and other staff who help keep the program running smoothly.
The Head Start program joins several other social service agencies that also rent space at the mall, including the PA CareerLink®. We are pleased to be in such close proximity to so many other organizations that offer support services to families.
In addition, the mall is a central location that can be reached via the public bus system, which is one of the things we really liked about it.
We invite parents to come visit us at our new location to talk about the program and fill out an application—we recruit for the Head Start Beaver County program on an ongoing basis. If no space is available at the time you fill out an application, your name will be placed on a waiting list, which enables us to ensure that children are able to enter the program as soon as a slot becomes available. As a result, parents are welcome to visit us at our mall location any time of the year to fill out an application—or discuss the program! And, remember, it's never too early to turn in an application for next year!
Stop by and see us at our new home at 205 Beaver Valley Mall, Monaca. If you can't come visit, feel free to call us at our new phone number: 724-728-2110. We look forward to hearing from you!
What is it?
TravelEDGE is a Fayette County-based hospitality and tourism training program funded through a grant from the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau. Participants will have access to five free 4-hour workshops that explore customer service concepts and local history and attractions.
Our goal is to deliver educational training programs to individuals interested in a tourism industry related career in Fayette County. The workshops will:
- increase participants' knowledge of Fayette County attractions,
- expand their customer service and communication skills,
- enhance their employability,
- and empower them to be even more knowledgeable, helpful, and friendly front-line staff.
What are the workshops?
The Private Industry Council's private licensed school, the Education and Technology Institute (ETI), has designed the workshops, which include:
- Customer Service I
- Customer Service II
- Cemeteries of Fayette
- Business and Restaurants of Fayette
- Historic and other Sites of Fayette
Did you say "cemeteries"?
Yep! All the workshops are designed to ensure that those who work with the public are armed with knowledge for some of the most common questions people from out of town will ask, including: "How do you get there from here?"
A large portion of the folks who come through the county are genealogists looking for information about their family history, and they are very often looking for old, out-of-the way cemeteries. This workshop provides a glimpse into local history from an unexpected source—and helps those in the tourism industry give informed directions to these places of interest.
Who can participate?
Anyone who currently works in or wants to work in a hospitality/tourism related industry in Fayette County can participate in the program. This includes lots of different people, including those working behind the counter at local businesses. Or maybe you're a volunteer at a local historic site—or you work as a greeter at a local establishment. If you work with the public, this program is for you!
Do I have to attend all five workshops?
No—you can attend as many workshops as you want to. We will run three cycles of all five workshops, and you have the opportunity to participate at any time. However, if you complete Customer Service I, Customer Service II, and one of the remaining workshops, you will receive a certificate of completion. Working toward a certificate of completion, however, is not mandatory.
When are the workshops held?
We have workshops scheduled throughout the month of November, with new workshop dates coming soon!
Where are the workshops held?
Workshops are held at PIC's office at 480A Coolspring Street, Uniontown, PA 15401.
How do I find out more?
To learn more about the program or to register, please call ETI at 724-836-2395.
NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. – The Allegheny-Kiskiminetas (Alle-Kiski) River Valley, which includes parts of northern Westmoreland County, has a rich industrial history. In the 1800's the availability of key natural resources such as salt and oil and easy, cheap access to railroads and rivers for transportation brought workers into the area. Industries such as glass, iron, steel, and aluminum boomed.[i]
Communities throughout southwestern Pennsylvania have had to find new niches since these traditional industries became less prominent in the region. The Alle-Kiski River Valley towns of New Kensington and Arnold are no exception—many residents of the area now struggle to find family-sustaining employment.
To support those facing employment barriers in New Kensington and Arnold, the Private Industry Council (PIC) teamed with the Westmoreland County Housing Authority and the Westmoreland County Board of Commissioners (through the Department of Planning & Development) to implement the second phase of the Jobs, Education, and Training (JET) program. (The program was originally piloted in Monessen beginning in December 2011.)
This past spring, the New Kensington JET program began providing intensive job search assistance paired with training and education opportunities to unemployed and underemployed residents in the New Kensington and Arnold area.
Marci Plyler, who originally joined the PIC team as a job developer with the EARN program, now splits her time between the EARN and JET programs. In her role as JET program coordinator, she works one-on-one with participants to connect them with all the resources they need to be able to find employment. As a result, much of the week, she is stationed out of the Alle-Kiski PA Careerlink® in New Kensington.
Plyler enjoys working in New Kensington because of the sense of community that's there. "They're very community oriented," she said, adding that folks take great pride in living there and are often very involved in the community.
The job market within New Kensington and Arnold can be a bit tough, though. There are a lot of retail and food service jobs—as well as some manufacturing. Other types of opportunities can be more difficult to come by within the immediate area. Surrounding areas can offer some employment opportunities for residents, but transportation to jobs beyond the towns' borders can sometimes pose challenges.
Less than 25% of the individuals that Plyler works with have their own transportation—and though public busing is available, the hours the buses run don't always work with a job that requires evening hours. Plyler said that if an employee shows they are dependable, however, businesses will often adjust their work hours to ensure the schedule fits with the bus routes. Transportation remains a huge obstacle for those seeking employment, but through the JET program, Plyler is there to help participants identify their options.
The Westmoreland County Housing Authority has been an important partner in helping Plyler reach out to potential participants and provide additional resources, and together they organized a special fall festival this October. "I've known the folks at the Housing Authority for years," Plyler said. "They've been absolutely wonderful."
Training is among the many resources offered through the JET program, and this element is often what attracts folks initially. "Most people sign up because they want training," Plyler said, but once they are enrolled in JET, they recognize that the intensive one-on-one assistance is very valuable. They stick with the program because of the personal touch.
Iris Stickland, a current JET program participant, said that a friend referred her for the training that JET provided. She said that what she finds most helpful about the program is the accessibility—and Plyler's knowledge and dedication.
Strickland has worked as an administrator, a data entry supervisor, and a personal assistant within the public and private sectors. When her assignment at a local staffing agency ended recently, she went on unemployment. She noted that she's facing a tough job market.
Plyler gives Strickland leads for job openings and also helps her to look at things from a different perspective.
"I just haven't met too many people who go the extra mile like she does," Strickland said.
"She's a God-send," Strickland added. "She puts a personal touch on it, which is amazing to me, and I appreciate it."
For additional information about the JET program, please contact the Alle-Kiski PA CareerLink® at 724-334-8710.
[i] Invitation to the Allegheny-Kiski River Region, Alle-Kiski Chamber Federation.
PIC Marks 30 Years of Serving Southwestern Pennsylvania
On Thursday, October 24, the Private Industry Council of Westmoreland/Fayette, Inc. (PIC), celebrated its 30th anniversary with a dinner at the Willow Room in Rostraver Township. The event honored students, staff and collaborators.
U.S. Congressman Tim Murphy, representing the 18th District kicked off the festivities by presenting a proclamation from the U.S. House of Representatives, which recognized the organization's 30th anniversary. Westmoreland County Commissioner Ted Kopas also presented a proclamation from the county, which was signed by all three Westmoreland County commissioners.
Earlier in the month, PIC also received a proclamation from the Pennsylvania Senate, which was sponsored by state senators Kim Ward and Richard Kasunic, who were not able to be in attendance.
In addition to marking its anniversary on Thursday evening, PIC honored its students through a Celebration of Achievement—a graduation ceremony that recognized the accomplishments of its Adult Education, Family Literacy and Education and Technology Institute (ETI) students.
Among the students who received certificates in honor of their accomplishments were those who had obtained their Pennsylvania Commonwealth Diploma (GED ®); who had improved two educational functioning levels; who had obtained or retained employment or gone on to post-secondary education or who had earned a diploma from ETI.
Three student speakers shared their stories.
Amber Daughdrill, a March 2013 graduate of ETI's Medical Coder/Biller program, said in her speech, "It's hard to believe that for me, just a little over a year ago I started on a path that has made a dramatic impact on life." She spoke of the teammates who had made it possible—including fellow classmates, teachers and family.
Speaker Christy Brant, who was being honored for her achievements within the adult education program, reflected on the meaning behind accomplishments. Her fellow adult education speaker, Megan Lloyd, was not able to be at the event in person and delivered a heart-felt presentation via video recording. Lloyd discussed the hardships she's faced and how much she's achieved thanks to the caring staff at PIC.
In addition to honoring students, PIC recognizing outstanding collaborators of each of its divisions, the organization as a whole and the afterschool program:
- Amanda Newhouse, who has been an important ally in PIC's Fayette County-based early childhood programming, received the Early Childhood Development Division Collaborator Award.
- Dr. Roger Briscoe, an assistant professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania who has worked with PIC's former Even Start and current afterschool programming, received the Education Division Collaborator Award.
- The Western Pennsylvania Operating Engineers Joint Apprenticeship and Training Program received the Workforce Development Division Collaborator Award for their role in the Pathways Out of Poverty Program and the development of a new model for assessing union applicants using PIC's System for Assessment and Group Evaluation (SAGE).
- PNC Bank received the Overall Collaborator Award for their support of PIC's programs and projects, including EITC contributions and Grow Up Great grants.
- Uniontown Area School District received the Commissioner Ron Nehls Memorial Award in recognition of their outstanding collaboration in PIC's afterschool program.
In his closing remarks, Tim Yurcisin, President and CEO of PIC, noted, "I am proud of the students who are here tonight—and I want to congratulate you on all you have achieved."
He also thanked collaborators and partners, saying, "I am proud also to have so many wonderful friends in the community who help support families and individuals as they seek to overcome obstacles. It is with the help of such collaborators that the Private Industry Council has been able to contribute to so many success stories."
The Private Industry Council's annual Celebration of Achievement is a graduation ceremony that honors students from PIC's Education Division who have reached important goals related to their education. Each year, student speakers share inspirational stories of perseverance and accomplishment—making for a very emotional and heartwarming night.
One of the stories that was told this year came from a student speaker who delivered her message via a video recording. She had not been able to make it to the ceremony—thanks to the Private Industry Council, she had found a job, and her work schedule didn't allow her to take time off.
Megan Lloyd's story, though, was told from the heart. A single mother of three young children, she came to the Private Industry Council with skepticism. She did not have a job or a high school diploma, and she doubted that PIC's programming would benefit her.
When she began working with staff, she found caring individuals who helped her hone her academic skills through the Family Literacy program and taught her how to navigate the job search process. What's more, she had great motivation to succeed: her kids. She said that she probably would not have kept going had it not been for them.
On Christmas Eve last year, she received her Pennsylvania Commonwealth Diploma (GED®). She said that it was one of the best Christmas gifts she could have gotten.
Not having a high school diploma had been a major obstacle to finding a job—few employers were willing to offer a higher paying position to someone without one. Now she could fill in that gap in her resume.
With the help of PIC staff, she created a professional-looking resume, and she earned her OSHA certification. Our job developers in the EARN program gave her information about which companies were hiring and helped her to land interviews. She was hired by Coca-Cola in February 2013—the job provides wages that enable her to support herself and her children. She calls it the "best job I have ever had."
We are proud of Megan and all of the other students who were honored at the 13th annual Celebration of Achievement, which coincided with this year's 30th anniversary dinner. Congratulations to each one of our students—you have worked so hard to get where you are!
In 2014, the test folks take to obtain a General Equivalency Diploma—better known as a GED®—will look a little different.
For one thing, the test will be less dependent on multiple choice questions, and it will be consolidated into four sections rather than five. However, one of the biggest changes will be in how people take the test—filling in bubble sheets on a sheet of paper will no longer be an option. Starting January 2, the GED® will be fully computerized.
"It's not going to be harder," said Donna Cartia, an education case manager at the Private Industry Council (PIC) who has been coordinating preparations for the changes within the organization. "It's going to utilize a different skill set."
She noted that those taking the test in 2014 will be called on to use more critical thinking and time management skills. In addition, because there will be more fill-in-the-blank and short answer questions, test takers will need to be able to recall more information without prompts.
Over the past year, PIC has been putting a lot of thought into what we need to do to help students prepare for the new test. Part of the answer has been in creating a 36-hour crash course that enables those who have already started the process to determine whether they should rush to complete it by the end of the year. PIC has also received clearance to test between Christmas and New Year's—allowing test takers as much time as possible to prepare before completing the exam in 2013.
PIC participated in a pilot program this year to better understand what computerized testing will mean. Starting January 1, 2013, computerized GED® testing using the current test was rolled out in a limited number of locations—PIC being among them. This enabled us to see how the digitally based process works and to get staff ready for the coming changes.
Since PIC also offers classes that prepare students for the GED® test, participating in the computerized testing pilot program this year has also informed our teaching strategies in the classroom.
To learn more about PIC's GED® preparation program and testing sites, please contact Lynda Marcinko (in Greensburg) at 724-836-2600, ext. 206, or Roxanne Weekley (in Uniontown) at 724-437-2590, ext. 326.
As the year draws to a close, many businesses and individuals take the opportunity to make charitable donations. December is naturally a time of giving with the holiday season, but December 31 is also the deadline to make a tax-deductible contribution that will be reported out for the coming tax season.
PIC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that is eligible to receive tax deductible contributions from businesses and individuals. Please keep us in mind as you make end-of-year charitable donations.