Learning occupational skills. Forging a career path. Working towards self-sufficiency.
This is the mission of Berks Latino Workforce Development Corporation, better known as Berks Tec Centro.
United Way of Berks County champions this workforce development organization and recently awarded a Focused Grant to Tec Centro to help job seekers hurdle the barriers preventing them from qualifying for job openings, including English language competency, academic skills and occupational skills. The grant will help more individuals and families rise from the cycle of poverty and become financially stable.
Tec Centro’s new Allied Health programs provide occupational training for Nurse Aide and Phlebotomy positions and address critical needs for health care labor and bilingual workers in Berks County. An inaugural Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) program launched in Fall 2022, and the first Phlebotomy program kicked off in Winter 2023. Additional CNA and Phlebotomy courses will be offered this year, which will help fill job openings throughout our community.
The impact these programs have on the participants’ quality of life is significant. “The first class of nine CNA graduates are now working and earning up to $30/hour, rather than $12/hour; this is life-changing,” shares Violet Emory, executive director at Tec Centro.
Priscilla Valerio, a graduate of the CNA Training 1st cohort, recently secured employment at a local senior care facility at the rate of $30 hour as a per diem employee. “This program has been very influential in my life. It has not only prepared me to be in the field of nursing, it has also given me the confidence to perform my job efficiently. Becoming a Certified Nurse Aide is just one small step forward into a productive future.”
What sets Tec Centro apart is that Violet and her growing team build strong relationships between the students, instructors and staff. Intense case-management is a hallmark of the program. “Anything we can assist with, we do, and we work with partners to fill gaps. For example, based on the state’s medical training attendance requirements, students cannot miss more than one day of class, so we aim to support participants during and after the program, including guidance with housing needs, daycare issues, food and financial insecurities, and family issues. We want students to achieve long-term success.”
Once students complete the intensive classroom and clinical phases for graduation, they follow-through on their certifications. “Some students also plan to continue their education and pursue an LPN nursing degree, and we work with them on pathways to get there,” adds Emory.
During Tec Centro’s first two years, over 650 participants were served. They anticipate 561 participants for 2023, including 60 new Allied Health Program students. Plans are in place to add space for trade programs, in part due to a Department of Labor Community Project Funding grant. Initial course offerings will include Culinary Arts, Commercial & Industrial Plumbing and Facilities Maintenance Technician programs. All courses include language prep—both English as a Second Language and the specific terminology for medical, culinary and industrial ‘languages.’
The collaboration between Tec Centro, United Way and other community partners is empowering people to live stronger and more stable and productive lives. That’s what Live United is all about.