A ribbon-cutting to celebrate a new partnership among EASTCONN Adult Programs, the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board and American Job Center East took place recently at the group's new, co-located site in Willimantic, in a move that will simplify and improve Windham-region adults' access to free employment, training and education services.
“EASTCONN, the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board and the American Job Center East are joining forces to help adults realize their education dreams and employment potential,” said Rich Tariff, EASTCONN’s Director of Adult Programs. “This blending of employment and education resources in the same building is a first in our region.”
The new site is located at Tyler Square, 1320 Main St., Willimantic, CT 06226.
Joining the celebration, which took place on November 4th, 2016, were EASTCONN Executive Director Paula M. Colen, Tariff, EWIB President/CEO John Beauregard, state Department of Labor Commissioner Scott D. Jackson, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Congressman Joe Courtney, state Sen. Mae Flexer, state Rep. Susan Johnson, and Windham Mayor Ernie Eldridge, among other state dignitaries and representatives.
"This day is really a landmark for the region, and a major breakthrough," said Blumenthal. "This idea [of co-locating job and education services] sounds so logical, I wonder why it hasn't been done before ... I'm really proud to be here today."
“EWIB is really pleased with the outcome of the American Job Center planning in Willimantic,” said Beauregard. “It is the result of a longstanding agency partnership between EASTCONN and EWIB, a great community effort to function as a team, and the will, by those involved, to turn it into a positive outcome. The beneficiary will be the greater Windham community and the thousands of regional residents that seek services from the Center on an annual basis.”
"This is really a great example of collaboration," said Glen Peterson, the division director of the Regional School Choice Office at the Connecticut Department of Education, who also attended the ribbon-cutting. "Hopefully, it becomes a template for the rest of the state."
In 2015, as a cost-saving measure, the Connecticut Department of Labor (CTDOL) announced it would close half of its 12 American Job Centers statewide, Willimantic among them. The CTDOL is a close partner of EWIB, which administers the American Job Centers.
“Given the geographic distance to the nearest Job Center and the public transportation challenges, eliminating the Job Center would have been devastating for the community,” Beauregard said. “The Willimantic Job Center traditionally has received more than 14,000 visits annually from job-seekers requesting support for employment searches and/or for building the skills necessary to advance their careers. The Job Center has been vital to the community and their job-seekers.”
American Job Centers provide employment services, a career resource library, job-related workshops and referrals, veteran employment services, computer access, individual guidance and support, as well as connections to human services agencies and on-site recruitment opportunities for businesses.
EASTCONN’s free Adult Program offerings mesh seamlessly with Job Center services, Tariff said, noting that EASTCONN offers free classes in high school completion (like GED and Spanish GED), employment skills and training, and classes in U.S. citizenship and English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL), among other support services.
“So many unemployed and under-employed adults in our region lack the basic skills they need to meet the demands of today’s employers, or to obtain the jobs they want,” said Tariff. “This on-site collaboration will make it easier for them to connect with resources that will help them succeed.”
The offices at Tyler Square comprise more than 10,000 square feet, with nine freshly wired, painted and carpeted classrooms that include Internet-enabled computers for adult students and computer stations. There are 20 offices for student-advisor and case management meetings, and plenty of parking, said Kristin Hempel, EASTCONN’s Associate Director of Adult Programs.
“Fortunately for area residents, this goes well beyond a physical co-location and is representative of the integrated workforce development ‘system’ that partners have been working on in eastern Connecticut,” said Beauregard.
“The connection between employment and education has never been more important,” he continued, “and we’ve just made it easier for our residents to access both in the same building.”
Tariff said that the co-location also aligns with the Connecticut MORE Commission’s objective of creating regional partnerships to maximize resources.
“We are merging resources, sharing rent, saving facility costs, and creating easier access to services for adults — and that benefits not only our clients, but state and local taxpayers,” said Tariff. “Everyone wins.”
“The new Willimantic center … is fortunate to have such a great partner in EASTCONN, who saw the potential for this new site,” said Beauregard. “EWIB is thankful to CTDOL and EASTCONN for making this happen.”
Learn more about the Tyler Square services by contacting Rich Tariff at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 860-455-1601.