POT D Question 1—Description of Status of Berkshire P-21 Team The Berkshire Pathway-21 Team was organized prior to the submission of the Strategic Plan in 2005 and participated in the steps taken, such as arranging for youth focus groups and resource mapping, to supply input. The P-21 Team met at least three times to brainstorm goals and strategies and to approve the final written plan. The entire Berkshire Pathway-21 Team meets on a quarterly basis and invites representatives of the following groups of agencies: WORKFORCE/EMPLOYMENT AGENCIES: Berkshire Regional Employment Board and Berkshire Works Career Center EDUCATION: Pittsfield Public Schools; Berkshire County Sheriff’s Department through the Juvenile Resource Center (JRC); Pittsfield Adult Learning Center; Northern Berkshire ABE; and Berkshire Community College (Perkins provider) STATE AGENCIES: Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission; Department of Youth Services; Department of Social Services; Department of Mental Health; and Department of Transitional Assistance COMMUNITY NGO’S: Berkshire Community Action Council (BCAC); Brigham Center; Berkshire United Way; Northern Berkshire United Way; Northern Berkshire Community Coalition; Railroad Street Youth Project; Berkshire Children and Family Center; Pittsfield Boys and Girls Club; and the Catholic Youth Center YOUTH VOICE: Pittsfield Youth Commission; Youth Works Summer Program participants and Youth Council representatives In addition to the all-inclusive membership described above, a sub-group has developed to form the RECONNECT Initiative to focus on drawing in youth to take advantage of employment, educational, and support service options and opportunities. The RECONNECT Initiative focuses on the continuum of the in-school, at-risk population, to those who have just dropped out, to those who have been disconnected for several years. It will also offer support to those who have completed a GED, HS Diploma, or High School Equivalency. This RECONNECT Initiative’s working group consists of the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board (BCREB), Berkshire Works, the Pittsfield Adult Learning Center, the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Department/Pittsfield Public Schools through their joint Juvenile Resource Center (JRC) venture, the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), Berkshire Community Action Council (BCAC) including its Youth Build initiative, the Brigham Center, and the Pittsfield Youth Commission (interface with Pittsfield youth). This working group began with Project RECONNECT, a well- advertised 2-day event, supported by community leaders, designed to attract and motivate youth towards getting back on track educationally and/or vocationally. The P-21 team has come together to form the Berkshire Pathway-21 Network. Member agencies have letters on file at the BCREB confirming participation. A draft handbook describing the network’s mission, organization, and offerings was disseminated in June 2007. Subsequent updated editions will be provided as dynamics shift and the Network evolves. Through the efforts of the Berkshire P-21 Network and its RECONNECT Initiative, the following developments have occurred: Streamlined interagency referral process—interagency cooperation and communication are hallmarks of the Berkshire service system. By bringing the appropriate team members together around the Strategic Plan, Project RECONNECT, and ongoing planning, the members better collaborate around individual youth and work to brainstorm service initiatives such as the On-the-Job Mentoring (OJM) capability, Youth Build, and the future prospects of a RECONNECT Center. Establishment of Building Trades Pathway and Youth Build—Youth Build was established as a pilot program for 5 youth over the 2006-7 school year with Commonwealth Corporation funding and local investment of monies (e.g. Berkshire United Way, City of Pittsfield) and in-kind service (e.g., Adult Learning Center, Taconic High School; Habitat for Humanity). A Program Coordinator is in place under the Berkshire Community Action Council, and he has made contacts with unions and businesses in this sector. A Federal Grant Proposal was submitted on July 3, 2007 with the hope that the Berkshire Region could expand to a full-fledged 3 year Youth Build site. The Berkshire P-21 planning team hopes to nurture Youth Build for at least 1 additional school year with local resources since the region was not awarded this Federal funding. The Berkshire Community Action Council plans to reapply for this funding in January 2009. Establishment of P-21 Youth Works summer work sites—Through the efforts of the P- 21 Team and its Youth Consultant, 2 work sites were used for the summer Youth Works program, one in the Health/Human Services pathway (Berkshire ARC) and one in the Hospitality/Customer Services Pathway (the Crowne Plaza). Five out-of-school youth completed the summer program. Establishment of Training Site for Hospitality Customer Service Pathway—The Crowne Plaza has agreed to provide a training site for one youth to learn to be a desk clerk. Wages would be paid through Berkshire Works (Title 1 WIA funds), or by the P-21 grant if the youth is not Title 1 eligible. Commitment of Interested Employers in Health/Human Services Pathway—Berkshire ARC, Berkshire Family and Individual Resources, Berkshire Health Systems, and Hillcrest Educational Services have met with representatives of the P-21 Network and are amenable to efforts to recruit and retain youth as entry level employees; including those willing to be trained as C.N.A’s. In addition, the BCREB was awarded a $500,000 three-year Workforce Competitive Trust Fund grant in 2007 to provide career ladder opportunities for incumbent healthcare workers (i.e. Certified Nursing Assistants) and to tap into the educational system to attract more youth to the Healthcare field. Called Project H.E.A.L.T.H., the Program Director is a member of the RECONNECT Initiative and has already connected with P-21 eligible youth both in-school and out-of-school regarding the opportunities this grant has to offer - paid release time for training/school and college tuition coverage. Development of an On-the-Job Mentoring Capability—The P-21 Network received funding from Berkshire Bank Foundation to pilot an On-the-Job Mentoring (OJM) capability, whereby senior employees can act as a job coach on the job as well as a counselor/advisor to make the youth’s entry into the workplace and the company culture a success. A pre-arranged mentoring plan spells out the mentoring period, the remuneration for the mentor, and mutual responsibilities. The desired outcome is that the youth is hired for the indefinite future as validated by an employer sign-off. Establishment of the RECONNECT Initiative—The RECONNECT Initiative was born out of Project RECONNECT, the 2-day event designed to attract un/under enrolled and/or un/underemployed youth, especially those who had not taken the initiative to pass through the normal portals such as the career center and the ABE programs. The working group from the P-21 Team will make this effort to find and attract older at- risk youth an ongoing one, with hopes to focus more on early intervention strategies and the possible development of a RECONNECT Center. Question 2—Description of P-21 Team Goals through June 30, 2009 PROCESS GOALS: The Pathway-21 Team will meet quarterly to oversee a coordinated approach to the target youth population. A user-friendly handbook will be updated as needed. The RECONNECT Initiative will be ongoing and will continue to evolve. Project RECONNECT - the 2-day event that took place in September 2007 will be repeated at least annually in the Fall. Discussion is underway as to whether to have a similar event each spring that revolves around the Career Fair that is hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. Participating youth will attend resume writing, interviewing and dress-for- success workshops at Berkshire Works Career Center and outreach by local social service representatives and P-21 Network affiliates will be conducted the day before the Career Fair. Like Project RECONNECT, the intent is for youth to be prepared to explore their most appropriate career direction, to best market themselves, and/or to secure employment at the Career Fair. The RECONNECT working group is consistently focusing on ways to attract more youth to the available offerings in the Network. Concrete efforts will begin with the Pittsfield Public Schools to redouble efforts to dissuade youth from dropping out, perhaps prior to the signing of withdrawal papers, by exposing youth to the outside-of- school landscape before going through with the withdrawal. In addition, funds in Pot E will be used as incentives for youth to return to a diploma track (e.g., offering driver’s education as an inducement at the Adult Learning Center). Case Management capability will be enhanced by the addition of the resources in Pot E. The nexus between job placement specialists (e.g., Berkshire Works, JRC) and adult education (e.g., ABE providers and Berkshire Community College) will be strengthened by added staff time. OUTCOME GOALS: The On-the-Job Mentoring (OJM) capability to help recruit and retain youth employees will serve 15 youth and it will develop ongoing partnerships with at least 4 employers in 2008. The program will be evaluated and, if it is as successful as we envision, we hope to expand to at least 8 employers by June 30, 2009 and serve as many youth as the funds will cover. A recruitment and training capability for in-house mentors will be facilitated with partner employers. The BCREB was awarded a Berkshire Bank Foundation grant in 2007 for the OJM component and it will continue to seek out additional funding opportunities for this program in 2008. The RECONNECT Initiative will dissuade at least 10% of high school youth from dropping out at the point of potential withdrawal. It will make contact with all youth who have withdrawn as soon as possible. A visible point or points of drop-in will be well-advertised for those youth who have dropped out. Youth Build will remain a viable program, with 10 slots, through June 30, 2009 and will spearhead contacts with the building trades sector. Berkshire Youth Build plans to submit another federal grant application for the next round of funding in January 2009. A placement capability will be developed within the RECONNECT Initiative to connect youth referred from the Adult Learning Center, Juvenile Resource Center and/or the two public high schools to educational and occupational training opportunities available, and will assist with the development of each P-21 youth’s Individual Career Development Plan (ICDP). The individualized Individual Career Development Plan (ICDP) capability will be put in place to assist individual P-21 youth with educational and career goals and to devise the strategies needed to pursue those goals. These strategies could include providing tuition into training programs or to driver education classes. They could include assignment of a paid mentor or career coach for a designated period. Question 3—Generic Pathway Design IN-SCHOOL: At-risk youth are identified through guidance offices and normal in-school efforts are made to retain them. Pittsfield has the highest dropout rate in the Berkshire Region and therefore has in place a fast growing effort to prevent a further increase in dropout numbers. The major prevention initiative is the Juvenile Resource Center, a joint venture between the Pittsfield Public Schools and the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Department. The goal of the program is to 1) help young people stay in school and receive a high school diploma and 2) participate in job readiness and placement leading to successful independent living. The JRC is a major player in the P-21 Network and its RECONNECT Initiative and is a growing force, as it has begun to accept referrals from other school districts, most notably from North Adams, where the dropout rate is second only to Pittsfield. In addition, the JRC is positioned to work closely with the Adult Learning Center and is becoming a spearhead to all dropout prevention efforts. Like the JRC’s job training and job placement component for in-school youth, a similar component exists for out-of-school youth through its partnership with Berkshire Works Career Center. As valuable as it is as a resource, the JRC cannot serve all the in-school at-risk youth. Therefore, further development is necessary for this “clearinghouse” concept to dissuade youth from dropping out or to “reconnect” them into the P-21 Network as soon as possible after withdrawing from school. OUT OF SCHOOL: The percentage of P-21 eligible enrollees at the Pittsfield Adult Learning Center is over 50%—a reflection of the approximately 1/3 dropout rate for the 4-year high school period in the Pittsfield Public Schools. The Adult Learning Center has a Guidance Counselor who manages the entire caseloads of all of its enrollees. Through the P-21 Network, the Adult Learning Center works closely with Berkshire Works Career Center and the Juvenile Resource Center, which sometimes assists as a job placement component for specific referrals. For out-of-school youth, more job/service placement and job support time will be required if our RECONNECT Initiative succeeds in drawing in more and more youth. This added job placement capability would target and guide youth “off the street,” those that are in an ABE program, those that complete the ABE diploma, and those who enter Berkshire Community College and need job support. Job placement efforts will specially emphasize those career pathways outlined in the Berkshire P-21 Strategic Plan: Building Trades; Health/Human Services; and Hospitality/Customer Service. As such, career incentives will be discussed and arranged with individual youth so that they will understand opportunities for upward mobility (e.g., tuition-free programs; pathways to nursing careers through Project Health; trade apprenticeships, etc.). There are definite options available for out of school youth to complete a GED, to secure employment, or a combination of both. The usual hurdles and obstacles exist, such as personal motivation, negative peer pressure, court involvement, and special service needs (e.g., substance abuse counseling). The Health/Human Services employers and many Hospitality employers operate under stringent CORI requirements. The Pathway-21 Network includes involvement from those state agencies and community organizations that can address many of the obstacles to career development. One particular obstacle for this region is transportation. Berkshire County covers many square miles. At-risk youth are congregated primarily in Pittsfield, and to some extent in North Adams. A number of potential jobs in the Hospitality pathway are in tourist towns like Lenox, Stockbridge, and Williamstown. Employers in Human Services, such as Berkshire ARC and BFAIR, operate 24-hour homes in a decentralized network whereby it is essential for workers to have automobiles. The P-21 Network will look to address this obstacle in a creative manner with its Pot E funds. Question 4—Budget Narrative for Pot D The $20,000 will be broken down as follows: $17,000 Youth Consultant: The Youth Consultant will be retained from March 1, 2008 through May 30, 2009, at $2,000/month for the first 2 months and at $1,000/month for the remaining 13 months, to coordinate the BCREB’s efforts to evolve the P-21 Network and its RECONNECT Initiative. The Consultant will be responsible for development and refinement of all in-network initiatives. The Youth Consultant will be available on an as-needed basis, but will deliver at least an average of 20 hours per week for March and April 2008 and at least an average of 10/hours per week thereafter on coordination, administration, development, and outreach (e.g., to Spanish speakers). $2,000 Printing & Copying: To keep employers informed of programs such as the OJM and to publicize efforts of the RECONNECT Initiative to attract at-risk youth, written materials need to be developed, disseminated, and replenished. $1,000 (5%) General and Administrative: The BCREB will administer this project and will continue to host the P-21 Team, coordinate its activity, provide office space, office equipment, and supervision of the Youth Consultant.
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