By: Jonathan Pizzutti and Allison Spivack, 2017-2018 Work First Fellows
Venturing out of the Work First Foundation headquarters in New York, this site update spotlights the experiences of our Fellows in Washington, D.C. Since early June, Allison and Jonathan have each been working on programs that address urban poverty through serving residents in the nation’s capital.
In the America Works Homeless Veteran Reintegration Program (HVRP), Allison works to assist veterans experiencing homelessness or at risk of experiencing homelessness to obtain meaningful employment. As the Program Administrator and Trainer, she facilitates orientation and intake, handles client outreach, and collaborates with outside organizations to create training and informational opportunities. She also works one-on-one with clients to draft and update their resumes, conduct mock interviews, and facilitate programs that increase interview and job readiness.
Allison has enjoyed the opportunity to create meaningful trainings for HVRP, developing lessons based on veteran needs. After learning about the challenge clients face to conduct job search tasks over multiple electronic devices, Allison determined a need for increased knowledge of document accessibility and computer literacy. She developed a monthly comprehensive Google Drive training that covers all aspects of Drive storage and productivity tools to help veterans accelerate their job search. She also designed a LinkedIn training for veterans, highlighting LinkedIn resources developed specifically for those who have served. In her role with HVRP, Allison has learned about the unique challenges veterans face, and the support systems set in place to assist them. She looks forward to continuing to gain insight on this topic as she takes the lead on a Work First Foundation project to assist the state of Maryland by conducting a needs assessment survey for their veteran population.
Meanwhile, Jonathan manages the Department on Disability Services (DDS) program that enables people with mental and physical disabilities to obtain and retain employment. Utilizing partnerships with the Washington, D.C. government and various community-based organizations, he assists people with disabilities and guides them through every step of the job search, including acquiring professional clothing, writing cover letters, and preparing for interviews. To help clients develop skills and increase their opportunities for employment, he also plans and instructs training sessions that cover topics ranging from effective communication to relationship-building in the workplace.
In honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Jonathan recently helped host a hiring event for DDS and other programs at the America Works office. The event’s keynote speaker was Jennifer Sheehy, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Disability Employment Policy in the U.S. Department of Labor. She spoke to clients about how she overcame her struggles with her own disability and how others with disabilities could obtain meaningful employment and add much-needed diversity to the workplace. Following this motivational message, clients were able to meet with 19 employers that were hiring for positions in fields including administration, healthcare, and food services. After receiving valuable face time with employers and, in some cases, on-the-spot interviews, clients walked away with folders full of job leads and a head start in the selection process for various companies.
Even though the D.C. Fellows work in different America Works programs, they each do research for the Work First Foundation that seeks to address urban poverty. While Allison specializes in food security and Jonathan focuses on low-income housing, their research topics landed them both at the Urbanization and Poverty Research Conference at the World Bank. At this conference, they were able to hear from prominent intellectuals regarding poverty reduction and connect with experienced professionals in various fields. Moving forward, Allison and Jonathan are hoping to utilize their research to address serious issues concerning urban poverty.