Regina Vindel, Canal Alliance Workforce Supervisor, spoke to us about her experiences and conversations while communicating with clients during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis during the past year.
Just after shelter-and-place began in March 2020, Workforce Supervisor, Regina Vindel, called more than 300 Canal Alliance clients to support them at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. Regina supports students in construction, business, and tax classes as they apply for classes, carry out their learning, graduate, apply for jobs, and enter new workforce positions. In the interview below she shared an update on her work over the past year:
After shelter-in-place began in March 2020, you called hundreds of clients and discovered that 50% had been laid off and more than 70% experienced some reduction in employment and income. Have employment opportunities opened since?
Most of the workforce clients did regain their jobs, especially around the 2020 summer season due to high demand in construction. For the second shelter-in place around December, I had an influx of workforce clients connecting with me to help them fill out unemployment benefits paperwork to tide them over until more employment opportunities opened. This was mainly the clients that work in the hospitality industry and a few construction workers.
This second shut down was really concerning for me. I really didn’t want this to go for too long and for people to not have income to support their families. Fortunately, now, these clients have been re-employed.
I really have to say that the community has been amazing, reaching out to us to offer job opportunities for clients. We have strong partnerships with many organizations, and it really doesn’t feel like we are alone in supporting those most impacted by the pandemic.
How are clients doing now, more than one year after the pandemic began?
I call students to check-in with them frequently, one-on-one. A lot of clients can’t talk to their kids, their families, or their loved ones about how they are really feeling, but they can talk to me, cry, and be vulnerable. This uplifts me. Achieving workforce goals is so important, but someone’s well-being is just as important.
Students are working really hard to overcome the challenges they face. For example, I have a younger student who had a baby last year and he is a very talented carpenter and he’s always trying to get a different job where he can make more money. He’s been saying “Regina, for my newborn, I am going to commit to getting my contractor’s license. Even if it’s a big sacrifice, I need to do this for my newborn, and I want to be a good example of a parent who strives to reach my goals.”
How do you see students continuing to work towards their goals of employment and well-being for their families during the ongoing health and economic crises?
Participating in workforce classes is not easy; for example, the construction classes are all day every Saturday or two nights a week. I cannot imagine taking on such a big commitment when you’ve got a family and you’re working multiple jobs. This illustrates to me a great level of ambition in our clients. They want to be comfortable economically so they can provide for their families.
I also follow students for two years after graduation, see our students go back to school, get a raise. Each year students do so well after our programs. Their dreams are to become their own bosses and make a better future for themselves and their families, and they have maintained their goals during the pandemic, despite the additional barriers.
I admire our students and I learn from every new cohort. Life and life’s difficulties haven’t stopped them; they are so resilient to keep going. Courage is what I see in each new cohort. I admire our clients, and they inspire me – every cohort – in different ways. We’ve become very close, like they’re family.