In January 2019, MHA’s Careers Task Force began discussing the potential of partnering with an organization called Twin Cities R!SE (TC R!SE). The mission of TC R!SE is centered around personal empowerment leading to meaningful employment opportunities. The organization recognizes that a good job is a pathway out of poverty, but significant barriers exist, such as lack of confidence and reliance, before someone can find meaningful employment. MHA quickly recognized the value of the organization and partnered with TC R!SE for their Facilities and Maintenance Career Pathways Program. In that first year of the partnership, members of MHA helped guide the curriculum of the program and attended the end of program career fair, interviewing graduates for their open positions.
In 2020, MHA staff worked with TC R!SE to develop a new partnership application process. This clarified expectations from both the program graduates and the companies looking to hire graduates. Most importantly, the program participants were exposed to the multi housing industry. Jacquelyn Carpenter, Vice President of Workforce Development at TC R!SE stated, “participants are so impressed and amazed to enter a wonderful industry and are amazed at the job opportunities and equitable wages.” Partners contributed to the program through mock interviewing career training participants and were invited to attend the end of program career fair where they could connect with participants and encourage them to apply to their companies.
In addition to the partnership application, we developed a tool drive for graduates of the Facilities and Maintenance Program. One thing that we have heard over and over is that there is a significant barrier to entry for new maintenance professionals if they do not have tools. Some positions require maintenance techs to supply their own set of tools which for some is not possible at their current wages. MHA partnered with Lowes and their “Generation T” Program who matched dollar for dollar any money raised through the tool drive and provided the tool kits at a discount. MHA members contributed $3,250 which was matched by Lowes to donate 30 tool kits, including a full drill set, to TC R!SE. Participants who successfully complete the program receive a full tool set. A great step in eliminating the barrier to entry into the multi housing industry.
The 2020 partnership strategy was a great success. There were 107 total Facilities and Maintenance Program participants in five cohorts for the 2020 year. Of the 107 participants, 56 people completed the entire program and 32 people gained meaningful employment after the conclusion of the program (75% placement rate). Of the 32 that were placed, 16 participants ended up at MHA member companies (general and product service). The average change in income of those participants was an increase of $17,692 per year. Many participants more than doubled their income after completing the program.
Not only is the program a success for participants, but it also provides a pipeline opportunity for employers in the multi housing industry such as Mint Properties. I had the opportunity to talk to Mark Severtsgaard, Director of Maintenance for Mint Properties who hired three people from the most recent Facilities and Maintenance Program. Mark was incredibly impressed by the TC R!SE program and the candidates that he interviewed. Mint Properties has a great model of on-the-job training and thus can look for candidates with little experience but a willingness to learn and interest in a career in maintenance and develop them into successful maintenance professionals.
When Mark found TC R!SE, he was looking to hire one beginning maintenance tech. After interviewing five candidates from the program, he expanded that number and hired three people from the program. He noticed that graduates of the program have a level of personal responsibility and maturity that is sometimes hard to find. One thing that was very clear from my conversation with him was that the personal empowerment training that all TC R!SE career pathway participants go through is incredibly valuable to employers. Mark said, “the opportunity here is to build maintenance techs from the ground up but you can be confident that the candidates coming out of the program have a willingness to learn and the life skills to make them successful.” He said he sees all three employees being long term employees with Mint Properties.
One of the candidates that Mint Properties hired was Tatyana Johnson. Tatyana had been laid off from a restaurant job and was unemployed since March 2020 when she entered the program. She saw this program as an opportunity to change directions and get involved in the trades. During the career fair, she was impressed by the multi housing industry because employers described the jobs as having a lot of variety in the day. She said, “I was happy to hear that at Mint Properties they train people on the job and give them even more of a chance to learn and grow.” Tatyana has been at Mint Properties for almost four months now and so far, she said it is going very well. She is moving from more basic tasks to more complicated ones and is feeling very confident in her abilities. “They are starting to throw more my way because they recognize I am capable of so much more and that feels really good.”
After a successful 2020, the MHA Careers Task Force is looking at strengthening the partnership for 2021 and into the future. TC R!SE has a Customer Service and Call Center Career Pathway Program that could be a great pipeline for leasing or property manager positions. We are planning to host another tool drive to continue breaking down those barriers to entry into the multi housing industry. For employers who have great on-the-job training programs, the career pathway programs at TC R!SE can be a fantastic hiring opportunity. We have appreciated working with TC R!SE and will continue to keep MHA members abreast of these hiring opportunities. Jacquelyn stated “we have been truly impressed and blessed in our partnership with MHA. Our collective impact continues to provide success into the communities we live and serve.”