Albany, on the Job

  1. Training Up and Finding Jobs – During a Pandemic
  2. Scott Gallup: Creating a Space for Golfers and Walkers at Capital Hills
  3. Sgt. Joshua Laiacona: Protecting Protesters’ Rights and Residents’ Safety
  4. Still on the Job, Filling Potholes and Paving
  5. Encouraging Many to Make Music, Alone Yet Still Together
  6. Sanitation Crews: Keeping Everyone Safe and the City Clean
  7. Still Making Certain Your Tap Water is Clean
  8. Still Inspecting to Ensure Your Home is Safe and Livable
  9. Finding New Purpose, APD Officers Provide Food and Safety
  10. City Gardeners Continue to Help
  11. The Youth Innovation Program Keeps Students Learning
  12. Even in This Crisis, the Water Department Delivers

Mary Kalica and Liz HarrisThrough the pandemic, Mary Kalica, Fiscal and Data Management Coordinator, and Liz Harris, Director of Enrollee Services, were essential staff working more than full-time for Youth and Workforce Services. Liz connects clients with training and work; Mary handles the finances. “We’re a tag team,” Mary says. Both were born and raised in Albany. 

Q: What has your work been like during the pandemic? 

Liz: Over the last five months, we’ve spent $160,000 through the federal Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act, about the same for a normal year. It’s spent on getting people training and connecting them to employment. It pays for tuition for classes and schools, computer network services, LPN training, classes to get commercial driver’s licenses, for any kind of industry-recognized credential that will allow someone to be more competitive and more employable. 

Q. How has the work changed?

Liz: We’ve been trying to keep people out of the office as much as possible. Since COVID-19 we have created a virtual platform to help City residents and Albany County ones. I take about 20 or 30 phone calls a day. Interviews are done with a webcam. Some do training on their own computer, a few who don’t have computers come in to use ours. We also prepare resumes and practice interviewing online. We scan documents and email them, clients take pictures on their phone to send. 

Q. Who do you work with?

Liz: We’ve been working with individuals who have been unemployed through no fault of their own who want training to advance and move ahead or get competencies to move on into other career fields. We deal with everybody, entry level, those with lots of experience, single mothers who don't know where to turn. For some, it has been an opportunity for them to discover their passion and move into their dream job. 

A lot of LPNs are coming for assistance. We had someone who wasn’t successful with the LPN exam, didn’t pass it twice. Lost her job. We connected her with an organization that paid for her to do the online studying. We paid for her testing. She just called and told me that she's got the certification. 

People want to take classes at Albany CanCode – computer coding is big. New Horizons Network Computer Systems is a big one too. Many people need basic digital literacy skills, we sign them up for Metrix Platform, which we have through our department. Once they get a certification, we help them seek employment based on that training. Digital literacy is big. We take it for granted, like how to upload a file or a resume, or Excel. I tell them I’m practicing Excel every day because that’s something I’m striving to get better at. I tell them it’s okay not to know, but you need a plan to figure it out. 

Mary: A lot of people are in panic mode, knowing they weren’t going back to the jobs they had. A lot of people weren’t furloughed, they were laid off because of COVID-19. They need to find a new job. We do a little bit of everything to get them one. 

Liz: A lot of people realize that if they don’t do something they're going to be left behind in the workforce, realizing they can't retire. Sometimes we get more seasoned employees, because they may not have the technical skills or lack of confidence to move ahead, so we talk them off the ledge. For example, I’m working with a gentleman now who was laid off, but he has a master's degree. He’s been chief of mental health organizations, lots of credentials, but lacks computer skills. So he's actually taking computer networking certification so combined with his background, he’ll be much more marketable.

Mary: Liz reassures them that there’s a place for them somewhere, and that we’ll help them get to that place, that you're just not going to be out on the street with nothing. A lot of people are where they’re at because of COVID. We do what we have to do when we have you do it. You have the 11 o’clock night emails, that’s okay. Our customers are our first priority. 

Q. You pay for supplies too …

Liz: We pay for books, calculators, uniforms. We give people money to purchase these essentials – along with their tuition. Sometimes we can pay for testing fees. 

Q. Do you work with other organizations?

Liz: We work with SNUG, Mission Accomplished, Trinity Alliance, the Women’s Employment Resource Center, The South End Children’s Café, to provide more holistic support services. Food services, mental health counseling, clothing … whatever people need.

Mary: Liz stops at nothing. I’ve been here 34 years, and I’ve never seen a worker like her. She puts her whole life into her work. I love to listen to her on the phone. She doesn’t turn anyone away. I can't tell you how many people have come in here – before COVID – screaming and jumping up and down about what they’ve accomplished. She’s amazing.

Liz: Mary is amazing too.