PIC E-Newsletter Issue 2.1


This edition marks the one-year anniversary of PIC's e-newsletter! In February 2013, we sent out our very first e-newsletter as a way of keeping in touch with all the wonderful people who have a connection to the Private Industry Council through its Early Childhood Development, Education, and Workforce Development Divisions.

This year has brought with it some bitter cold and snowy weather patterns in southwestern Pennsylvania, and we hope that everyone is staying safe and warm! Here at PIC, we're gearing up already for the fun summer months and are looking forward to warmer weather. In the meantime, here are a few of the great things that are going on at PIC right now!

 Included in this issue are:



February Means Operating Engineers Here at PIC

"Everybody thinks February is Valentine's Day—no it's operating engineers," joked Maria Lovat, PIC's Assessment Services Coordinator, as she was briefing the staff at our Greensburg office about what to expect from February 18 – 28 this year.

For several years, February has marked the time when hopeful applicants to the Western Pennsylvania Operating Engineers Joint Apprenticeship and Training Program converge on PIC's Greensburg office to take part in a two-phase assessment process that measures everything from eye-hand-foot coordination to mechanical knowledge.

In 2006, the apprenticeship program approached PIC with a dilemma. They were swamped with approximately 1,000 applicants to their training program each year with only a few dozen slots available. They had been using an assessment process to narrow down the pool. However, there was something amiss—several individuals who made the cut were not as successful as had been hoped.

The apprenticeship program liked what they saw in PIC's assessment process, which used the System for Assessment and Group Evaluation (SAGE) to measure aptitudes and attitudes. They also liked some of the assessment tools shown to them by Dave Rea who is currently a Project Manager for Catalyst Connection.

So PIC and Dave Rea joined forces to design a customized assessment process that would measure all of the basic elements needed for someone to be successful in the operating engineers' apprenticeship and training program.

The resulting two-phase assessment has been extremely helpful in providing the data necessary to identify good candidates who will proceed to the next stage of the apprenticeship application process—interviews.

As the job market tightens and employers are flooded with more and more resumes from applicants all interested in the same job opening, many companies are turning to similar assessment processes to narrow the applicant pool. In addition to the Western Pennsylvania Operating Engineers Joint Apprenticeship and Training Program, PIC works with several local businesses and career and technology centers to design customized assessment tools that help identify individuals' vocational skills, aptitudes, interests, temperaments, and attitudes.

The advantages of getting the right candidate in the right position or training program are significant. For companies, when the right hiring decision is made the first time, turnover is reduced and productivity goes up. With less turnover, there is less disruption to work and less money spent on the hiring process. For training programs, when the best candidates are identified, the more likely they are to stick with the program and land a good job.  

Businesses and schools are coming to realize more and more the important role that the assessment of skills and aptitudes can play in the success of their employees and students.

And we love having the opportunity to help in this process.

We look forward to hosting approximately 1,000 applicants to the Western Pennsylvania Operating Engineers Joint Apprenticeship and Training Program this February and to continuing to help create a strong workforce for years to come.      

For additional information about PIC's testing and assessment services, please contact Maria Lovat at 724-437-2590, ext. 314.



No Need to Fear GED® Test Changes

The GED® (General Education Development) test has a new look for 2014. At first, this sounds a bit scary, but the differences between the old test and the new one are fairly easy to adapt to—and even in many ways they open up new opportunities for test takers. 

The GED® test is now completely computer-based. The days of filling out bubble sheets with a No. 2 pencil are no more. However, the computer skills needed for taking the computer-based version are very basic—such as using a mouse, cutting and pasting, and typing.

The test as a whole has been consolidated from five subject areas to four. The look of some of the questions has also changed. It is less dependent on multiple-choice options and contains more essay and fill-in-the-blank questions. That affords students a chance to defend their answers more and isn't quite as restrictive as a multiple-choice question can be.

There are a lot of misconceptions about the content of the test—and rumors are flying that it now includes high-level math such as trigonometry. This isn't the case. The test changes come in part because there is a recognized need to ensure that what is being tested lines up more with skills needed for a workplace or a post-secondary education environment. Test questions will measure these types of skills.

But it's also important to note that no test taker ever has to go in feeling unprepared. Programs such as the Private Industry Council's Career Transitions (Adult Education) program offer academic skills support that is designed to help those who need to boost their understanding of the very things covered on the GED® exam.

If you or anyone you know is planning to take the GED® test, please reach out to the Career Transitions program to help prepare. Classes are free and conveniently located throughout Westmoreland and Fayette counties. For additional information, contact Lynda Marcinko (in Greensburg) at 724-836-2600, ext. 206, or Roxanne Weekley (in Uniontown) at 724-437-2590, ext. 326. Additional information is available by clicking here.  



Profile from the Classroom: Lacy Nobles

YOUNGWOOD, Pa. – This spring, we are pleased to welcome Lacy Nobles to the Adult Education Program as an intern. Nobles, a communications major at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, is helping out in PIC's Career Transitions classroom in the Westmoreland  PA CareerLink® center in Youngwood.E-newsletter 2-1 Lacy Nobles pic 2-10-2014

The Adult Education Program's Career Transitions classes help adult learners hone their academic skills so that they are better prepared to take the GED® exam or move into post-secondary classrooms and workplaces.

Nobles started her internship with Career Transitions in December and is shadowing instructor Mary Lou Friedline and helping students who need extra support. She will eventually tutor adult education students and will have the opportunity to shadow other PIC staff at the CareerLink® to learn about how PIC's education and career readiness services work together.  

"I'm really here for support for students," Nobles said of her current role, "to help them realize that while they're struggling now, they won't be forever."

She noted that she herself was a "struggling student" who came to college without knowing what she wanted to do. "I thought college was just something you had to do," she said. "Because I didn't know what I wanted to do, I was really struggling in school."

Then a few things happened that gave focus to her academic career. She transferred to Pitt – Greensburg from another school and found that she felt more comfortable there. And she met some passionate professors who inspired her to pursue communications and eventually sparked an interest in teaching. 

"Once I found communication, everything clicked," she said. "I wanted to continue my education to be able to teach other people."

She had come to realize what her strengths were, and she wanted to share the experience with others by becoming a teacher. "People don't think they're good enough," she said. "I want to show college students that grades are not everything and people learn very differently."

Because Nobles hopes to eventually become a communications instructor at a community college, her academic advisor suggested that she intern with PIC's Adult Education Program to learn more about teaching adults.

Nobles assumed that the Career Transitions classrooms would be structured much like the college seminars she attends. She was surprised to find this was not the case. Instead, instruction is tailored to the unique learning styles of each student and includes both instructor- and student-directed study.

"I've never been in a classroom where they give you the option to learn the way you want to learn," she said. She has also noted that the students in Friedline's classroom are very independent and gain confidence in their own abilities. She believes that as a struggling student, she would have greatly benefited from this classroom model.

She hopes to eventually have the opportunity to apply some of the lessons she's learned about this teaching strategy to her own adult learner classroom someday—along with lessons she's learned from her own college professors who have shown such great enthusiasm for their work.

"I wanted to help people feel more confident," she said of why she's decided to become a teacher. "I want to change the perspective of learning and teaching."



In the Spotlight: Early Head Start of Fayette County

This month, we're taking a closer look at the Early Head Start program in Fayette County, which has been a part of the Private Industry Council's Early Childhood Development Division since 1997. The Fayette County program serves families throughout the entire county with home-based services.  

What is Early Head Start?
Early Head Start is a national program funded through the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It provides support to low-income families with infants and toddlers and to expectant women. It's there to help to ensure that parents of children ages birth to two can better understand and address all of their children's developmental needs.

 As noted on the Office of the Administration for Children and Families Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center website, the overall goals of the program include:

  • To provide safe and developmentally enriching caregiving which promotes the physical, cognitive, social and emotional development of infants and toddlers, and prepares them for future growth and development;
  • To support parents, both mothers and fathers, in their role as primary caregivers and teachers of their children, and families in meeting personal goals and achieving self sufficiency across a wide variety of domains;
  • To mobilize communities to provide the resources and environment necessary to ensure a comprehensive, integrated array of services and support for families;
  • To ensure the provision of high quality responsive services to family through the development of trained, and caring staff.

How does the program work?
In Fayette County, a team of family resource specialists visits families in their homes to work with parents and children. The family resource specialists help guide parents through some of the difficult questions and obstacles of caring for a young child: How do I know when to take my baby to the doctor? How do I know—and make sure—that my baby is developing normally? What is "normal"?

The family resource specialists spend 90 minutes per week with each family and then also host regular socializations—where families have a chance to get together with other parents and children.

The first few years of development are very, very important, and the Early Head Start program helps to make sure that parents have the resources and information they need to help their children be healthy and strong and grow.

What is the difference between Head Start and Early Head Start?
The services offered by the Head Start and Early Head Start programs complement each other. Early Head Start reaches children ages birth to two and pregnant women. Head Start picks up where Early Head Start leaves off and serves children ages three to five.

How does the program benefit families?
Parenting can be a scary job. Early Head Start staff provide a shoulder to lean on through those first few years of parenting. Staff have a deep understanding of the physical and cognitive development needs of infants and toddlers, and they provide guidance so that parents can confidently support their children's growth.

Who can participate in Early Head Start?
Early Head Start in Fayette County serves low-income families from anywhere in the county. We come to you! We are able to serve 276 children and pregnant woman at a time, so you may be placed on a waiting list. However, we encourage you to submit an application today to get the process rolling!

For those outside of Fayette County: There are other Early Head Start programs throughout the country, so if you live elsewhere, please be aware that there are similar programs all over. To locate an Early Head Start program near you, please use the "Head Start Locator" feature on the Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center site.

How can I become involved in the Early Head Start of Fayette County?
To learn more about the program, please contact Head Start/Early Head Start of Fayette County via 724-430-4818.

You can learn more about what we do at Head Start/Early Head Start of Fayette County by clicking here.



Foster Grandparents Bring a Special Touch to Head Start of Beaver County Classrooms

BEAVER COUNTY, Pa. – For well over a decade, the Head Start of Beaver County has welcomed some very special individuals into its classrooms—senior citizens who wanted to serve their communities. This year, we have more than a dozen senior citizens working in our Head Start of Beaver County classrooms as part of the Foster Grandparent Program (FGP) sponsored locally by the Red Cross of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

In the greater Pittsburgh region, FGP spans far beyond the reaches of our Head Start of Beaver County classrooms—it includes approximately 230 individuals who are 55 years or older and who help with a wide variety of programs serving special needs or at-risk children in a six-county area: Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington, Greene, and Fayette. The program currently has "grandparents" stationed at 137 sites across this region.

At the Head Start of Beaver County, FGP participants help children ages 3 to 5 out in the classroom, providing support to children who need a little extra attention.

"They give one-to-one attention to children who are struggling," said Angela Abbiati, the Head Start of Beaver County Parent, Family and Community Engagement Manager. "They read stories, engage, support, and care for the children."

"I think one of the benefits for the children is having that role model, and a lot of times the [foster grandparents] provide a sense of comfort and nurturing," she added.

When they sign up for the program, FGP participants commit to serving a minimum of 15 hours per week. Some go well beyond the minimum requirements.

"A lot of them say, 'We just like being with the kids,'" Abbiati said.

The kids who have an opportunity to spend time with a foster grandparent—a term that can be deceiving because of common associations with the word "foster"—benefit from the individualized attention and interaction with older generations. But the foster grandparents themselves also benefit greatly from spending time with the kids.

Rebecca Maletto-Cornell, Director of the local Foster Grandparent Program, said that she's seen many of the senior citizens she works with become "more outgoing and more confident in themselves" through their participation in the program.

"They constantly come up to me and tell me what a difference it's made in their lives," she added. "They can't wait to go back."

She noted that there is "special connection that happens with the children and that grandparent."

FGP is part of a nationwide initiative funded through the Corporation for National and Community Service's Senior Corps . While seniors receive a very small stipend for their service as a result of being part of the program, the benefits are much more intangible than a little extra money to go toward household expenses.

Maletto-Cornell noted that the program encourages senior citizens to be active and become involved with the youth of their community. She also said that it sometimes pushes senior citizens to challenge themselves, and volunteering is "getting them up and moving."

We are excited to continue to welcome foster grandparents into Head Start of Beaver County classrooms, building on a long-standing tradition that benefits both the kids and the seniors!

There is currently a waiting list for FGP. However, Maletto-Cornell encourages anyone interested in participating in the program to start the application process now. Participants receive extensive training and must be able to obtain the proper clearances for working with children. Those interested in learning more or applying should contact Maletto-Cornell at the Red Cross of Southwestern Pennsylvania via 412-263-3165.



Searching for a Good Cause

The word "Google" has been transformed from a company name into a verb—and is now frequently used to describe the very act of looking up information using a search engine. But around the Private Industry Council, we don't do much "googling." Instead, we're into "goodsearching."

Goodsearch.com is a search engine powered by Yahoo! And as they themselves describe it, it's "a simple way to make a difference."

When you go to www.goodsearch.com and select a charity, you're well on your way to supporting a good cause. Each time you use Goodsearch to look up information, a penny is donated to a charity you've selected. A penny doesn't sound like much—but just think of how many searches you do in a day!  

The Private Industry Council of Westmoreland/Fayette, Inc., is among the charities that you can select, and we encourage you to start using Goodsearch today. It's a simple way to find information and support our organization at the same time!