Hiring nearly 60 Air Conditioning, Refrigeration & Heating graduates from JEVS’ Orleans Technical College over the last five years, Horizon Services has been an exemplary employer partner.
When the world was shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Horizon was making a commitment not only to its current employees, but to keeping the economy moving and hiring even more. With a headquarters office in Audubon, Pa., Horizon is one of the largest and most referred home services companies in the United States, specializing in heating, air conditioning, plumbing, drain cleaning, and electrical repair.
Horizon Services looks to Orleans Tech as a preferred source of qualified and motivated employees, even offering to come in for presentations to classes of students and on-the-spot interviews. They even report that some of the Orleans Tech grads who began working 5 years ago at the age of 25-27 are now making $100K plus!
The job retention of Orleans grads sits above 85%, and several have already been promoted to senior positions. Horizon is truly bettering the communities in which they serve.
Orleans Technical College honored Horizon Services, Inc., an HVAC and plumbing company that’s hired more than 60 graduates in the past five years, at its annual Strictly Business event.
By Northeast Times
When Makai Chetram graduated the HVAC program at Orleans Technical College in 2018, he achieved two goals. One, he got hired at a job for something he went to school for. Two, he was hired at that job before he even graduated.
Chetram is just one of more than 60 Orleans graduates in the last five years to be scooped up by Horizon Services Inc., a company that provides residential plumbing and HVAC services throughout the east coast. He was hired as a service technician, and three weeks ago was promoted to unit installer.
The partnership between Orleans and Horizon is a significant one – so much so that Orleans honored their partnership at the JEVS Strictly Business 2020 award ceremony. Working together for the last five years, Eric Crawford, talent acquisition specialist at Horizon, said Orleans goes above and beyond in producing job candidates for the company.
“We’ve put a lot of hours in the past five years building relationships with the school and program, so being recognized is an honor,” he said.
The annual award ceremony (virtual this year, of course) honors businesses and individuals that serve as an inspiration in their fields. Nominating the company that has provided jobs to so many graduates was a no-brainer for Tamika Gray, employment specialist at Orleans.
“They honestly deserve it just because of our relationship,” she said in the announcement video.
The hiring process works smoothly for both sides. Near the end of the program, students will send Crawford video introductions as well as their resumes. Crawford makes frequent trips to the school to meet the students in person and determine what position in the company would best suit them based on their skillset and personality.
“Orleans is willing to work with me to get to the root of each individual candidate so we know who they are as a person and where they’ll best fit in the company,” Crawford said.
Take Chetram, for example. Born in St. Thomas, he moved to Northeast Philadelphia when he was 13 and graduated from Northeast High School. A couple of years into college at Penn State, he met someone who recommended getting into the trades, and found himself at Orleans soon after.
Now 26, Chetram owns his own house while he said some of his friends are in debt. He said during the pandemic, he sees many young people turning to trades as a viable career option.
“You can take these skills anywhere,” he said.
Only 2.5 percent of Americans are qualified to work in HVAC and plumbing.
Even during the pandemic, Horizon has still hired about 10 Orleans graduates since April alone. A few of the students hired in March had to wait a couple of months to start until regular employee orientations began again, but once the business was deemed essential, Crawford was able to get them on board and working.
“The jobs don’t go away – services still need to take place,” Crawford said.
Have you been putting off your job search because you heard that employers have frozen hiring? Do you feel like the pandemic has fundamentally changed the world, the workforce, and every aspect of the job search? JEVS Career Strategies’ senior career counselor Jackie Savoy shares her expert opinion about strategizing during COVID-19. Jackie shared with us the following:
Tailor your resume to the job
Job opportunities open to the public are primarily advertised online, and big job search engines like Indeed or Glassdoor use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to filter resumes. The reality is your resume won’t get through the ATS and in front of a recruiter if you don’t include keywords that relate to the specific position. O*NET OnLine is a great tool with detailed job descriptions and industry information that can help you create a tailored resume. Additionally, JobScan allows you to compare your resume to the desired job description to see if you are a match.
An ATS-compatible resume is the foundation of your job search. Once that’s out of the way, what’s the next step? Google yourself. This is likely the first thing the hiring manager will do when your resume lands on their desk, and how you behave in virtual spaces plays a role in how you are perceived generally.
Therefore, it’s of utmost importance to have control of your online image. Flesh out your Linkedin profile with a high-quality professional photograph, comprehensive work history, and relevant industry connections. Remaining active on Linkedin will help you expand your network and increases the likelihood that you’ll be found by recruiters. A career counselor at JEVS Career Strategies can help you represent yourself, your unique work experiences, and strategize how to communicate if COVID-19 impacted your career.
It is not what you know, it is who knows you
No one can hire you if they don’t know you exist. A strong professional online presence is vital to finding a job, but it isn’t enough if that is your only strategy to get noticed.
Yes, you still need to network for inside information and advice so you are the most competitive version of yourself. This may seem counterintuitive given the restrictions on social interaction. Start by making a list of companies you would like to work for, recruiters you want to contact, and professionals in your desired field who might be able to give you guidance.
Social media is the perfect way to expand your network from a safe distance. Consider asking a professional contact for a virtual coffee break on Zoom to maintain the relationship and ensure you’re the first person they think of when they hear of a new opportunity.
Virtual Interviewing is just as important as in-person
“Normal” everyday life has widely adapted to the social restrictions; interviewing has not ceased, it has simply moved to virtual meeting platforms like Zoom or GoToMeeting. It’s crucial to become comfortable with video conferencing as these platforms are the gold standard for remote collaboration.
Fortunately, the best practices for acing a remote interview are largely the same in a video conference setting. Prepare thoroughly for your virtual interview as you would an in-person interview by researching the company, its mission, and how you would help them reach their goals. Practicing the best answers to common interview questions will set you up for success.
If you’ve read these tips and are still looking for guidance, schedule an appointment with a Career Strategies Career Counselor to design a personal job search action plan. Our counselors are here for you to help make a difficult situation productive and meaningful.
If you are interested in learning how JEVS Career Strategies can help individuals get to the next stage in their careers or job search…
As any JEVS Human Services employee knows, there are a plethora of programs that we provide for individuals from all walks of life. What many employees do not realize, however, is that some of our programs are open to them too! As more classes begin to rev up during these unprecedented times, we wanted to showcase some of the inspiring JEVS employees who have taken advantage of our JEVS+SNHU program, a partnership with Southern New Hampshire University that features flexible, affordable and accredited online associate and bachelor’s degree programs.
Annette recently leafed through the pages of her high school yearbook and came across a section that listed her dreams, which included working in the health industry. Now, working as a quality assurance supervisor at JEVS Work Ready, Annette loves her job but still wants to explore that part of herself that she has dreamt about for so long.
“I had this passion for a long time, and it was always in my heart that I wanted to go back to school, finish my degree…but then life happened,” Annette said. “You buy a house, have a kid, get a job, and it feels like going back to school gets further and further from your reach.”
Nevertheless, after discovering JEVS+SNHU, Annette overcame the barriers of being a first-generation student, single mother and full-time employee and decided to enroll for an associate degree in health care management. She is now one-third of the way through the program and is proud for not only accomplishing this goal for herself, but also for her son.
“My son and I have a saying– slow motion is better than no motion. So, although it might not always be on the time frame that I want, I am still chipping away at my goal, making progress and being an example for him.”
Valerie is used to being the teacher. She works as a placement counselor with JEVS Work Ready and has both children and grandchildren. However, despite her natural role as an educator, Valerie yearned to be a student again.
“Another employee shared her experience through the JEVS+SNHU program with me and that definitely piqued my interest,” Valerie said. “I wanted to improve on and enhance how I present to my students and I wanted to understand the culture and behaviors that form individual perspectives.”
Valerie enrolled in the JEVS+SNHU program for an associate degree in general studies and is halfway finished. She emphasized that the flexibility of the coursework is what gave her the opportunity to go back to school and succeed.
“For anyone who is considering, I would say go for it. You gain so much regarding different perspectives, collaboration and support from coaches and I almost guarantee that you can make the time.”
Jemmekia is the perfect example of how beneficial it can be for a JEVS employee to partake in a JEVS program. She works as an administrative assistant with JEVS Work Ready and took her passion for her job further by enrolling and successfully completing a bachelor’s degree in communications through JEVS+SNHU.
“I went to community college for five or six years and it dragged on and was test-based,” Jemmekia said. “When I looked at the JEVS + SNHU program and curriculum, I was like, wow you could do it at your own pace and do as many as you want within 6 months.”
Jemmekia enrolled in the program early on, before the JEVS coaching option was fully formed. She said that she knows with added aspect of coaching, the program must be even more successful than it was before. These coaches help keep students on track and check-in with them periodically to assist them in any way they can. Nonetheless, Jemmekia has only positive things to say about her experience.
“My work ethic has improved, and it opened me up to different opportunities that now I can say I have certain skills I didn’t have before that I can apply to my job at JEVS,” Jemmekia said.
The best part of her story is that Jemmekia now urges others at Work Ready to enroll in the program.
“I encourage everyone that’s involved in Work Ready to try the program. I could not recommend it enough.”
Picture a college student. Who comes to mind? The odds are that you envisioned an 18-year-old, fresh out of high school and immediately funneled into the higher education system. Yet, the U.S. Department of Education projects that 40% of students enrolled this fall are over the age of 25.
In other words, it’s never too late to go to college. A great portion of that 40% of adults have kids, full-time jobs and other responsibilities that make it an added challenge to go to school. However, the benefits of achieving post-secondary education are increasingly clear in a world where added qualifications are becoming givens for many job opportunities and promotions. The beauty of this, though, is the accessibility of online education.
JEVS Human Services has partnered with Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) to bring this flexibility and rich education to individuals looking for a chance to further their education. The online degree program guides students through employer-developed projects that show their mastery of skills—on their own timeline. Here are five reasons you should enroll in the JEVS College Degree Program now!
1. The program is completely online. It’s self-paced and flexible to fit it into your schedule, especially for those who may be working or helping children with remote learning this upcoming school year. You can likely get a degree done in less than the traditional two years for an associate degree and four years for a bachelor’s degree.
2. It’s affordable. At a time when college tuition and student debt are preventing people from going back to school or considering college out of high school, the JEVS+SNHU degree program is only $2,066 per trimester. We can help you to figure out the grants and financial aid that are available to help defray tuition costs. Don’t be wary of the low price tag; the reward is high, as 85% of our students graduate on time–over 30% higher than the national average.
3. You get a personal coach! JEVS provides trained, dedicated coaches to help you to navigate both your coursework and your busy life. This is a crucial feature that makes this program so unique compared to others. Most online schools rely completely on the student to keep up. We understand that this is difficult with the many other obligations that adult life brings. Our coaches will be there to keep you on track, help you to achieve, and guide you to graduation.
4. Majors are recession-friendly. With majors including finance, communications and health care, the program readies students for careers in industries that are essential during a time of recession. Business administration is the most popular major that the JEVS+SNHU program offers and can lead to jobs in finance, management, marketing and beyond with a median annual salary of $66,530.
5. No-fail course work. The curriculum of the program is project-based and forgiving, meaning that it doesn’t adhere to the traditional A through F structure, but instead, it helps students master competencies and work on real-world scenarios that are common in each field. Then, the student moves on to the next learning objective, even if that means re-doing a project a second or third time until they pass. No tests, no essays, and no excuses to not achieve!
Washington Township resident Nadja Connor has decided to return to college at the age of 38.
“Since I was 20 years out of school, I had no idea where to even start,” she said.
Connor worked in banking during the day and at night at a hotel’s front desk and in its accounting department to earn money for her family.
After three years of that, she began a full-time job at a credit union. Connor quickly rose through the ranks as branch manager, went to the loan, then collections departments, and finally into insurance.
Connor then started to notice she was being passed over for management positions, something that happened more than once. So she decided to find out exactly what she needed to do to take the next step in her career.
“You know, the first time you kind of shrug it off,” Connor said. “But when it happened to me a couple of times again I had to find out why. One of my managers I’ve gotten close to over the years was an easy person to talk to. After she told me that I had all the qualifications but not enough schooling, the feeling hit worse …
“I didn’t think that I would be able to go back to school since I’ve been out so long.”
Connor realized she had to earn a degree before she would be considered for any management positions. During a family event, Connor ran into a coach from JEVS Human Services — a Philadelphia nonprofit that enhances employability through educational and other programs — realized it was her opportunity to make a career move that could change her life.
“JEVS and Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) offer personal coaches to help make sure students don’t fall through the cracks with virtual learning while earning a degree through SNHU,” Connors explained. “Just thinking about going back was scary and having someone to talk to was great. When a paper I submitted wasn’t going through, he was there.
“That little extra hand holding makes all the difference and not being thrown out there with no idea what to expect was crucial,” she added. “It’s a great process and my coach is there 24/7 for me.”
For people like Connor, it is not easy getting back into schooling. She was able to receive scholarships and 24-hour help from her coach at JEVS that enabled her to start pursuing a degree.
Connor said the most difficult thing when it comes to going back to school is finding a balance between work and school, along with helping her children with school. But being part of the program has not only helped Connor but her oldest daughter as well.
Before Connor started the JEVS process, her daughter, Nayjay, didn’t want to attend college. After seeing her mom start the program, she had a change of heart.
“The idea of us going to college together seemed to get her excited,” Nadja Connor recalled. “She actually started a summer class at Rowan University. It was a program for students like her to get a feel of what college is like to see if she would want to continue.
“I am proving to my daughter and myself that this isn’t as hard as you think and that I can finish something I started,” she added. “Jumping back in 20 years later has definitely been a challenge, but I want to show my daughter that this option is always there. Completing life goals are crucial.”
Connor is scheduled to graduate with an associate of arts degree in general studies, with a concentration in business by 2022. She hopes to become an insurance writer and has already received a work promotion since starting the JEVS program. She was told to expect another upon her completion of the program.
“I will say that I think that being in school now has already helped me,” Connor noted. “I just got a different role with the company, and I think that in the interview process, when I let them know that I am currently going back to school, they were really excited and asked a bunch of questions about it.
“They did not say for sure, but I do believe that this is what helped push me over the other candidates on top of my experience.”
Editor’s note: Seed funding for JEVS’ partnership with Southern New Hampshire University was graciously provided by TD Bank through their TD Ready Commitment. The TD Ready Commitment is an annual North American initiative, which supports organizations developing innovative solutions for a changing world. Recipients must be organizations that have impactful and measurable solutions focused on helping to open doors for a more inclusive and sustainable tomorrow. JEVS continues to partner with TD Bank to offer impactful and measurable solutions to individuals in the Greater Philadelphia region.
For many students, summer is usually a time bounding with excitement, new opportunities and spending time with others. This summer, however, these things were not a given.
High school students were handling the repercussions of standardized testing and college tours being canceled, as well as extracurricular and summer activities coming to an abrupt stop. College students were dealing with countless canceled internships and job opportunities. At a time when there was so much disappointing news, JEVS Human Services shined a light and gave a group of high school and college students a reason to be excited again.
JEVS’s Franklin C. Ash Internship program ushered in 15 college students from around the country and provided them placements based on their interests and the chance to mentor a high school student through their college application process. This mentorship is part of JEVS’s Lasko College Prep Program. In this program, 10 high school students from Greater Philadelphia were taught various skills on standardized testing, given presentations and virtual tours of different universities and paired with college students to ask all of their burning questions about applying to college and life after high school.
These programs were made entirely virtual for the first time and despite the distance, each student sang the praises of JEVS for giving them something to work for during such a difficult time. Both programs celebrated this week with a closing reception via videoconference where each student had the chance to highlight the work they did this summer.
Below are two video highlights of one Ash intern and one Lasko intern reflecting on their summer experiences.
Although activity is slowly coming back after the COVID-19 lockdown, at least one organization that works with young adults with disabilities has had to double their efforts over the past few months to help those in need.
JEVS Independence Network, Philadelphia Independence Network (PIN) of Narberth helps its members achieve a more independent lifestyle, such as getting and taking care of their own apartment, help in getting jobs, socialization and other activities.
But with the recent lockdown, JEVS have had to ramp up that mission.
Bala Cynwyd resident Susan Denman’s son, Jacob, has been a member of JEVS for about the past five years, after graduating from Eastern University.
Jacob is on the autism spectrum. Over the years, they have helped him get an apartment and then land a data entry job in Philadelphia. Denman said without JEVS, Jacob, 30, would still be living at home.
But when the pandemic and lockdowns struck, everything changed. Work and other social activities were canceled.
“They (JEVS) quickly sprang into action with virtual activities, and it’s become richer and richer as needed,” Denman said in a recent interview. “We did a lot of walking and outdoor activities with individual members so they could keep with the social distancing but also remain in close touch with all the members.”
Like lots of other jobs, the shutdown caused many of the JEVS members to have to leave their employment.
Jacob was able to do a little work of his data entry work virtually, but with the shutdown, there just wasn’t very much data to enter, she said.
Denman said a few members who work in places like grocery stores were able to keep working, and a few others could work from home, but she didn’t think there were that many members still working.
That’s when the staff at JEVS increased its outreach to parents to make sure everyone was still doing fine, she said.
“You can imagine the psychological trauma this has brought on with these kids,” Denman said. “These young adults with disabilities could be freaking out because of the change. But that’s not what happened.”
Marc Tannenbaum, director JEVS Independence Network in Narberth, said with many of their members not working through the lockdowns and with their schedules being much more open, they are finding members are discussing some of the same issues and concerns.
“I think everyone is talking about the same issues, and that makes it very easy for them to talk about it,” Tannenbaum said.
During a recent Black Lives Matter march in Narberth, Denman said Jacob wanted to attend, so Tannenbaum asked to be sure she was okay with him going.
Tannenbaum described JEVS as a supportive independent living community. All the members live independently in their own apartments. The apartments are all in Narberth or neighboring Wynnewood.
“We’re here to support them with living independently,” he said.
According to Tannenbaum, JEVS helps with issues such as cooking, budgeting, working, laundry, and any other independent living skills. There is also a career navigator that helps with issues like resume building and a job coach.
In Narberth, where the offices are located, there is also a space called the clubhouse for members to socialize.
The overall support network for the members, Denman said, is what has pleased her about JEVS.
“I know they are talking about all these kinds of political and social issues and how the world is changing since COVID and other things that are happening, and it’s all so positive from a growth perspective,” Denman said. “I don’t know where’d we’d be with Jacob. It would be terrible. But it’s not. It’s more of a growth experience thanks to the support.”
Tannenbaum said the biggest component of the program is the socialization part. They have numerous activities, such as going to events in Philadelphia and the Narberth area.
“So although we’re here for support, it’s really about building their independence,” he said.
In June 2020, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities rose to 16.5%, compared to 11% for workers without a disability, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While this high statistic is a result of pandemic-related layoffs and other challenges, it comes with disappointment as we celebrate this week the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that sought to secure equality for employment opportunities for workers with disabilities.
Over the last four months—since the time when Pennsylvania and New Jersey went into lockdowns in late March—staff at the various employment-focused programs at JEVS turned their energies to tackle many scenarios for clients with disabilities:
How to assist the 51 clients who lost their jobs due to business closures.
How to assist the 26 clients who were essential workers and needed to continue to work.
How to assist clients to return to work once their employers reopened.
How to assist clients to find new jobs.
How to work with employers to hire JEVS jobseekers for open positions when there’s a saturated applicant pool with people desperate for work.
Lost Jobs, But Not Hope
For the large number of program participants with disabilities who lost jobs as a result of COVID-19, staff in the JEVS hireAbility and JEVS Independence Network programs provided an array of supportive services to help individuals cope and reassess their options. Madeline Schlusser, a career navigator with JEVS, describes some of these services:
Offering virtual “work skills” group sessions twice a week to prepare clients for workforce re-entry; create a safe place for them to support one another through significant employment and life changes; and continue to foster a strong culture of employment
Conducting weekly individual employment meetings to establish and support individual re-entry strategies
Providing guidance and support to program participants to identify and access available benefits
Offering weekly individual career planning meetings for those who wanted to use this time to plan for and pursue career advancement opportunities
“The biggest part of this challenge is managing our clients’ anxieties,” said Schlusser. She held a virtual mental health series on “mindfulness” workshops, and encouraged individuals to download apps like “Calm” and “Headspace” for breathing, relaxing and meditative exercises to reduce the stress.
Many JEVS program participants with disabilities were fortunate and deemed essential workers at supermarkets and convenience stores. Acme, Giant, Wegmans and Wawa locations throughout the region kept a majority of individuals employed during the lockdown, hired our clients, or held positions when our clients opted to quarantine during the spring.
“Wawa has been very accommodating to our clients,” said Angela Lucas, employment manager at JEVS. “One of the general managers has been great to work with, always cooperative and understanding of our clients’ needs during the lockdown period and now. He reaches out to resolve potential issues so that individuals are best supported to do their jobs well and safely.”
For our program participants who never stopped working, they and their JEVS case workers faced a different, new set of challenges. Many trainings, videos and even reminder tools like laminated “To Do Lists” emerged, to teach clients—many of whom struggle with change or need coaching—the “new normal” when it came to workplace practices.
“They were nervous about being at or returning to work,” said Schlusser. “We had many conversations with clients about how to work safely, social distance with customers and coworkers, and protect themselves upon returning home by showering right away, changing clothes, and disinfecting door handles.”
As the region slowly opens up this summer, JEVS job developers have turned their focus to helping the dozens upon dozens of clients who were furloughed or let go to return to work. For many, this means reevaluating interests and employment goals for those who say they “just need a paycheck.”
“Stores continue to be a prime employer for our job seekers,” said Jasmine Jones, a community employment specialist with JEVS. “Our clients have filled shelf-stocking positions, as well as order-picking positions that have become such an important part of our new way of shopping safely these days with order deliveries and curbside order pick-ups. For many of our clients, they were overjoyed to be hired at this point, even if working in a store didn’t necessarily match their career interests pre-pandemic.”
JEVS staff has also needed to find creative and new ways to connect clients with disabilities to job openings during the current environment of a competitive applicant market.
“One of the Lowes stores in New Jersey was willing to participate in a Zoom video conference job club with our clients who are seeking employment,” said Lucas. “A participant was hired as a result, and Lowes told us it was a great experience to screen and hire in this way.”
Roxanne is a 33-year-old client with JEVS hireAbility program. She has worked part-time for Aramark as a housekeeper at Temple University Health Sciences campus for the last year-and-a-half. At the beginning of the lockdown period, she voluntarily self-quarantined and wasn’t paid during her leave.
She returned last month to her usual schedule/hours with job coaching help from Jasmine Jones. Roxanne’s assigned building is the student faculty center, but faculty are working remotely, so the building is pretty empty. She and her coworkers have been focusing on preparing the building for recommended social distancing when the fall semester starts up (removing chairs, adding signage, blocking water fountains, etc.).
Roxanne has a really positive attitude about her return.
“I’m excited to be back at work because I really like my job, and I’m grateful to still have it,” she said. “It is really the only time I get to leave the house.”
Laura & Nicole Go Back to Work
Laura and Nicole are members of JEVS Philadelphia Independence Network, a supported community living program in Narberth. They were out of work when their employer, an early childhood learning center called Kids Corner, was closed for three months. Madeline Schlusser had been working with them to prepare for work reentry. Meanwhile, the employer held weekly check-ins via Zoom with employees to keep them engaged and motivated about their eventual return to the building.
As of this week, Laura and Nicole have been back at work for a month—strictly adhering to the new guidelines from the CDC and the PA Department of Human Services—and have managed the transition back into the workforce seamlessly.
“Our staff at JEVS is very impressed by how seriously both members are taking their responsibilities, said Schlusser. “They have been able to use all of the strategies and tools we discussed these last two months in our group meetings, and understand the importance of following the guidelines while at work and at home to ensure the children and families they support stay safe.”
“Working with infants and small kids, we had to go through many guidelines for safety,” said Laura. “We are so happy to be back at work because we get to see the children in the daycare again and interact with them.”
The world learned countless lessons during the pandemic, some about our society and health care system, and others about how much time we can spend watching Netflix. One unique perspective that this situation gave us specifically was that what is essential, is often taken for granted.
Trades like building maintenance, plumbing and electricity are undeniably essential and are one of the few professions that continued through the COVID-19 shutdown.
This is why JEVS’ career training school, Orleans Technical College, is excited to reopen on Monday, July 6, 2020, after a 16-week closure to continue teaching essential skills in the building and construction trades. During the shutdown, curriculum presented added challenges to transitioning online due to its hands-on, practical nature. Some of the training programs were nearing the end of their six-month curriculum, others had just started the week before. Despite these obstacles, students were guided through remote videoconferencing career preparation and professional development modules.
“This way, students can jump right into training when they return,” said Debbie Bello, director of admissions. “I was happy to hear from so many of our students [during the lockdown] eager to stay engaged with their instructors and looking forward to coming back to school.”
Orleans Tech has taken many measures and precautions to help ensure students and staff a safe return to in-person instruction. Facility modifications include directional signage in the hallways; limited classroom, bathroom and breakroom capacities; and sanitizing stations throughout the building. There are also red marks outside the building to signify line places where students will wait to get their temperature taken along with a list of questions upon arriving. And, of course, everyone is required to wear masks.
“We’ve been busy making changes, such as retrofitting additional computer labs and classrooms to promote social distancing,” said Bill Lynch, campus president. “The entire team at Orleans Technical College is excited to welcome our students back to campus. We’ve always known that our students are the heart and soul of our College. Without them, we were literally and figuratively empty.”
The students are also looking forward to filling the halls once again. Specifically, Jonathan Ferris, former Marine who is using his GI Bill educational benefits to train for a civilian career, began his training course just one week before the shutdown. Ferris is currently studying carpentry and is eager to learn skills for a profession—and for his own house that he hopes to buy in the near future.
“School is the one thing I have been looking forward to for a long time,” Ferris said. “I am excited to see my classmates and start again.”
There will be other changes on the first day back, including an orientation on new policies and procedures in response to the still-present COVID-19 virus. Plus, the admissions and financial services departments will be busy processing enrollments for upcoming summer and fall class starts. Between March 14 (when the school closed) until now, Orleans Tech has received 275 requests for training information and welcomed dozens upon dozens to its twice-monthly virtual open houses. For many, Bello said, “the essential nature of the building trades seems more attractive to people now as a recession-proof career path.
“Our curricula teach the skills needed to access in-demand careers that offer living wages and career advancement opportunities,” said Lynch. “Our goal has always been to teach students thoroughly and efficiently to connect them to work as quickly as possible.”
“Although making all of these changes were a challenge, they were also an opportunity to grow and reflect on the importance of being together, in-person for school and work alike,” said Bello. I want to walk through the front door of Orleans, come into my office and go ‘Okay, let’s begin,’ and all the stuff that worries me is on the outside of this building,” she said. “I’m here to work and I am going to give you 110 percent.”
VIDEO: JEVS instructor, Bill Madel, talks about returning to the classroom after our career training school, Orleans Technical College, was closed for 16 weeks during the COVID-19 lockdown:
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