In November 2015 Phillip Beltz and his partner moved to Boston to start a new chapter of their lives together. Beltz, then 62, began his job search with confidence. He had a master’s degree in social work, glowing references, and experience directing multiple municipal agencies. But none of it seemed to matter; he couldn’t find a job.

“I didn’t realize it would be so difficult, being older, looking for employment,” he said. “Boston’s a very young city.”

Career center customer Phillip Beltz

Beltz came to JVS CareerSolution for help. There, he learned how to use age to his advantage in job interviews and joined job search workshops with others in his same position. “I thought, ‘Wow, I’m not alone,’” he said. “That’s such an empowering experience.”

Every year, thousands of job-seekers like Beltz come to Boston’s one-stop career centers – Boston Career Link and JVS CareerSolution – for help gaining a foothold in a competitive job market. The career centers, part of a national network established by federal legislation, act as connection hubs for both employers and job-seekers. They provide a wealth of services: career counseling, recruitment events, job fairs, training referrals, job postings, networking opportunities, and workshops on virtually every step of the job search and application process. Most of these services are free. Job-seekers who have been laid off, are low-income, or receive unemployment insurance are also eligible for federal vouchers for occupational skills training.

In Boston, the centers’ large-scale impact is hard to overstate. In Fiscal Year 2017, the two centers collectively served 15,556 job-seekers. In FY16, the most recent year for complete verified data, 59% of job-seekers obtained employment within the first quarter of exit, based on wage record matching. Of those job-seekers that reported obtaining a job, their average wage was $21.36 per hour.

The career centers continue to expand their reach to Boston area residents – most recently, through newly established access points. These satellite locations, embedded with nonprofits, serve communities that rarely connect with the career centers:

  • St. Francis House provides housing and rehabilitative services to Boston’s homeless, who have historically lacked access to career center services or had difficulty navigating their systems.
  • WORK, Inc. provides skills training and support services for people with disabilities. The organization found that their clients’ families were often too overwhelmed with the demands of care-giving to pursue their own skills development.

Since the summer, each access point has appointed staff to explain career center services to their communities, enroll new members, and set up office hours at publicly accessible locations outside their nonprofit bases. They’re able to help job-seekers determine their field of interest, eligibility for job training, and necessary documentation for their applications before they ever walk through the career center doors.

A healthcare job fair at JVS CareerSolution

Simultaneously, the one-stop career centers have also been expanding their reach to employers as part of the state’s “Demand-Driven 2.0” strategy to tailor workforce development efforts to industry needs. Consequently, the number of employers served by Boston’s career centers has nearly doubled, from 380 in FY16 to 754 in FY17.

That responsiveness to employers benefits Boston’s workers, too. In November 2016, for example, Delta Air Lines came to Boston Career Link seeking dozens of workers for a new security screening program at Logan Airport that was launching in just two months’ time. Boston Career Link staff swiftly organized a series of recruitment events while also advocating for an hourly wage commensurate with market demand (three dollars higher than originally proposed). As a result, Delta hired 51 job-seekers at $15-19 per hour, plus benefits.

These are the mechanisms that, day after day, in vast numbers across the city, turn job-seekers into workers and job vacancies into productive positions. While far-reaching, the impact of the career centers is perhaps most keenly felt in the lives of individuals like Beltz. After four months without work, he finally hit the jackpot when CareerSolution steered the perfect list of municipal job openings his way. Suddenly, he found himself with three job offers. Beltz accepted a position as an administrator with the town of Winchester, and was quickly promoted to Director of the Council on Aging and Director of the Jenks Center. In his current role, Beltz plans event programming, does strategic planning for a community-wide needs assessment, and manages social workers, medical professionals, and hundreds of volunteers to improve the quality of life of the town’s seniors. Yet he couldn’t have done it without CareerSolution, which he credits for its help and encouragement: “It’s a lot of work to look for work.”

The Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development (OWD) and the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC) fulfill federally mandated oversight roles (as fiscal and chartering agent, respectively) for Boston’s one-stop career centers.

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