Meet the Cities: Hartford, Connecticut | XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling

Mar 04 2021

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Through the XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling competition, teams will collaborate with workforce boards and XPERT advisors to advance new training technologies that lead to jobs paying a living wage and offering opportunities for career growth. Over the past six weeks, we’ve introduced you to the people behind each of the six selected pilot workforce boards through XPRIZE’s Meet the Cities blog series. Meet our final city, Hartford.

Capital Workforce Partners (CWP) is an organization with several specialties: they work with Opportunity Youth (individuals ages 16 to 24 who are out-of-school and out-of-work), low-income youth and adults, and dislocated workers. By helping these individuals overcome barriers to employment and closing the skills gap in the local labor market, they also help a diverse range of employers meet their hiring needs throughout their locale, North Central Connecticut. 

“Capital Workforce Partners certainly understands the importance of leveraging resources and partnerships, whether those are local, state or national. Their work is fueled by a passion for serving and sustained by their deep network of community partners and employers. NAWB is proud of Alex and his crew.” - Ron Painter, President and CEO, National Association of Workforce Boards 

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been sharing stories of the cities across America where we’ll be piloting the training and work placement solutions created by our $5M XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling competitors. We’re excited to reveal that Capital Workforce Partners is one of the workforce development boards that we’re partnering with. The workforce board does amazing work investing in youth development, building sustainable career paths for adult workers, and offering employers a variety of programs and services, and they service over 15,000 people a year. We’re hoping that by collaborating, we can help them to help more people. Here, Jim Boucher, Chief Strategy Officer at CWP, tells us more. 

What’s the unique impact that CWP provides for workers, businesses, and your community?

CWP functions as a unique intermediary in the Greater Hartford region, working to connect businesses through industry sector partnerships. One such example is the Capital Area Pipeline Partnership and NextGeneration Tech Sector Partnership. We also work with community organizations through collective impact collaboratives such as the Hartford Opportunity Youth Collaborative and Hartford Work Based Learning Network. Generally, we connect job seekers with innovative skills training programs – such as the Future of Work Grand Challenge and the Apprenticeship Connecticut Initiative – that lead directly to meaningful career pathways.

At CWP, we have an unwavering faith in the potential for every job seeker and student in our service area to cultivate their unique skills and talents in pursuit of a meaningful and sustaining career. It is our mission to leverage both public and private resources to assist these individuals in shaping and developing their own career pathway – no matter the barriers or challenges to be overcome.

What inspires you about the solutions anticipated from XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling? 

The XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling solutions coordinated through the Future of Work Grand Challenge offer exciting opportunities to take skills-based training to the scale required to meet the needs of job seekers and businesses in our region. COVID-19 has significantly accelerated our utilization of virtual training platforms, including a transition to virtual service delivery models at our regional American Job Centers, and these XPRIZE Solutions comprise the next generation of online learning tools and strategies that will build on this virtual infrastructure. 

Virtual learning platforms will contribute to increased accessibility, efficiency, and scale of in-demand skills training, especially for jobseekers dislocated from previous careers by the COVID-19 economic crisis. This initiative provides a critical opportunity to leverage cutting edge innovations in automation, machine learning, and education in support of short-term, rapid-cycle skills training. These tools can catalyze the workforce system from traditional training models to make use of new, powerful modes of virtual training and career preparation.

What is one of your favorite stories to tell about someone that your organization has significantly impacted?

Through the CARES Act-funded Workforce Training and Innovation Fund, CWP received numerous requests from employers for CNAs to support the COVID-19 response. We immediately responded with 200 newly trained individuals. As an example, one woman who was homeless prior to program participation received free training and housing support and is now employed full-time, securely housed, and is currently providing critical healthcare services to individuals impacted by COVID-19.

What other tech-forward innovations or programs is your organization adopting to deconstruct systemic barriers for millions of unemployed workers?

We’ve already partnered with several virtual training platforms over the previous year to provide real-time and asynchronous learning opportunities for youth and adult job seekers. These online skill development opportunities have been blended into other Work-Based Learning programming to contextualize training experiences and prepare job seekers for the workplace. In the past year, CWP has successfully incorporated several virtual tools including Career Labs, Career Edge, 180 Skills, Metrix, and ToolingU, as well as partnership work with other agencies including Year Up, Career Team, and others to support online training options for students and job seekers that are cost-effective and easily scalable. 

We’ve also significantly expanded an Online Resource Portal for organizations providing Work-Based Learning opportunities that will include instructional resources and assessments, virtual tool reviews and feedback, and career pathways resources including updated skill-to-job mapping. These virtual resources and tools build on direct supportive services, such as housing, childcare, and transportation supports, that directly empower job seekers to succeed in training and job placement.

What, in your opinion, is the biggest myth about job centers?

One of the biggest myths about job centers is that they do not provide connections to businesses’ needs; however, employers are indeed some of the job centers’ primary customers and partners. Training programs are designed with direct input from employer partners to ensure that skills and credentials directly meet occupational needs.

Next up: How XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling tech is making a big impact in Norfolk, Virginia

Previous: Meet the Cities: Norfolk, Virginia I XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling

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