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2000 Best Practice Awards

Best of the Best Winner: Connecticut

Best Practices: Precision Wood Products

Woodworking Provides Jobs and Other Opportunities for Low-Income Groups

Hartford, Connecticut. Precision Wood Products (PWP) is a nonprofit furnishings and millwork precision manufacturing plant designed to train and employ residents of the Sheldon/Charter Oaks neighborhood in Hartford, Connecticut, who have multiple challenges to sustainable wage employment. The program draws on the Hartford region’s large hard-to-employ workforce, training them in a supportive environment and increasing the skilled labor pool for the region’s growing precision manufacturing sector. PWP is a self-sustaining enterprise. In its first year, PWP achieved sales of $30,000, which grew to $1 million in the second year of operation.

Luisa Peschiera-Odell receiving Best of the Best award
Luisa Peschiera-Odell (c) receiving Best of the Best award from Secretary Cuomo (l) and Deputy Secretary Ramirez (r)

In 2000, the program expects to more than double that amount.

In addition to the employment program, PWP trains women in nontraditional careers, at-risk youth, displaced workers, public housing residents and other very low income, unskilled and unemployed individuals for manufacturing positions throughout the region. A subcontractor, Manufacturing Technology Training program (MTT), offers comprehensive support, career and life skills training, English as a Second Language classes, counseling and referral for as many as 48 Hartford residents a year.

In 2000, the program implemented a self-sufficiency assessment tool that was field-tested in the training programs. The tool will be used to define a baseline and as a periodic resource for measuring progress and obstacles.

In addition, the program is also initiating an Individual Development Account program. Contributions from low-income participants will be matched dollar for dollar, and participants will learn personal economic skills related to individual savings goals (purchasing a home, education, capitalizing a business or obtaining a car for transportation to a job).

The Community Economic Development Division of Co-Opportunity developed PWP; an existing Hartford nonprofit committed to creating job opportunities and economic development in depressed neighborhoods. PWP is the first replication of a model program in San Francisco. One of the reasons for the program’s rapid success is that it was built out of expressed interest and demonstrated need in the Hartford community. Part of the planning process for the PWP project involved asking neighborhood residents about their concerns and interests. Results indicated that 60 percent of those polled wanted to bring new and existing businesses, with a commitment to hiring neighborhood residents, into the neighborhood. A full 14 percent reported having woodworking skills, 35 percent recognized the need for training, and another 30 percent said the lack of jobs in the area was a key problem.

A furniture manufacturing plant that would be neighborhood-based responded to the need for employment and training opportunities. The Precision Wood Products factory, a nonprofit venture with a social purpose, was the outcome. The factory provides quality employment with a special commitment to those who are unskilled, unemployed and from low-income households or dependent on public assistance. Recognizing that the employees face multiple hurdles to self-sufficiency, the program staff is committed to helping them set their own goals and track their progress.

Contact: Patricia Spring, Phone: (860) 236-3617 Ext. 101
Tracking Number: 1561
Winning Category: Geographic


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Content Archived: April 20, 2011

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