A Sun Staff Report
LOWELL -- The Coalition for a Better Acre was awarded $50,000 from the Commonwealth's Urban Agenda grant program on Monday, which will be used to support and enhance the STEP (Supported Training Education Program) workforce development program.
CBA was one of nine organizations statewide to receive funding in a competitive grant cycle that drew 30 applicants, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash said during the award announcement at Revere City Hall, which was also attended by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito.
"Stable, vital communities have the support of effective non-profits, successful local businesses, and committed municipal leadership," Ash said in a statement. "Today's awards address tough challenges in our urban centers by empowering these important coalitions to identify their resources, work together towards shared goals and create new opportunities for residents."
STEP is a six-week, 150-hour workforce training program serving low-income individuals with a high school diploma or equivalent, immigrants and refugees with no or little work history in the U.S. Participants practice basic skills like verbal and written communication, active listening, and teamwork and complex skills like conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, and critical thinking. STEP also addresses barriers to employment.
Launched in January 2017, the pilot program graduated 27 people, 76 percent of whom continue working full-time. The goal for 2018 is to double that figure, while integrating resources provided by our Working Cities Lowell Initiative (WCLI) partners. This year, all STEP participants will become members of the Career Center of Lowell and attend orientations at both the Career Center and Community Teamwork, Inc. to understand the services available to them and their families. Financial education will be provided by Eastern Bank and Jeanne D'Arc Credit Union; in the pilot year Santander Bank and Washington Savings Bank provided financial education.
"We are very grateful to the Commonwealth for this award, which will support the ongoing good work done by our workforce development staff as they prepare residents for a better future," said CBA Executive Director Yun-Ju Choi. "Introducing STEP participants to the tools and services available to them from our Working Cities partners speaks to the spirit of collaboration at the heart of the Working Cities Lowell Initiative and strengthens the community as a whole."