Faced with the pandemic, Dress for Success Charlotte has leveraged the “tremendous value” of Apparo support to broaden their reach and expand awareness of their mission.
Fontella McKyer, Director of Workforce Development at Dress for Success Charlotte, reached out to Apparo’s Tech Therapy team with a question: How can we continue to deliver our training programs and coaching given that we can no longer meet in person?
In the past, clients came to their Career Center to access laptops and the internet, learn from corporate trainers, and meet with subject matter experts for one-on-one coaching.
Apparo rose to the occasion to help them understand how to use Zoom to deliver this training virtually and how to optimize their use of Microsoft cloud-based tools to work remotely.
An important part of Dress for Success Charlotte’s mission is to help women secure employment as a means to achieve economic upward mobility and strengthen their families. In these turbulent times with hiring slowing and companies needing to lay people off, this is more important than ever. Dress for Success Charlotte’s workforce development training programs help address and eliminate career obstacles by delivering:
- Professional support including webinars and tutorials
- Resume creation workshops
- LinkedIn training
- Microsoft Office suite skill training
- Financial Education
- Speakers addressing a myriad of workplace topics (to help ensure job retentionand career advancement)
In the past at Dress for Success Charlotte, these services were delivered primarily in person. Today, through their work with Apparo, they are implementing virtual versions of workforce development services.
The Dress for Success Charlotte team also reached out to Apparo for Educational support, to improve their ability to work remotely. They had Office 365, but had only been using it for email. With Apparo’s Tech Therapy and Education support, they have grown their remote working skill set, learning how to transfer existing files and save new files to SharePoint so the team can access information and co-work while remote. They have also learned how to utilize Teams to optimize their ability to communicate and connect as co-workers.
We checked in recently with Fontella, who shares insight into the history of the Apparo-Dress for Success Charlotte relationship and its significance in their ability to operate during the pandemic.
Fontella explains that she has been with Dress for Success for 10 years and has worked with Apparo over the course of that decade. “We were all on desktop computers when I began. We didn’t have the technology in place to work remotely. Apparo helped us get our technology infrastructure in place and continues to support us over time to ensure that we have all of the right upgrades.”
She shares two key highlights of her work with Apparo over the past ten years:
- “Eight years ago we launched our Going Places Network program to help women with job search strategy. Walmart funded the technology we needed and Apparo directed us on how to best use those funds to ensure we had everything in place that our clients needed. We are looking to bring this program digital this month.”
- “Three years ago we received another grant from Walmart which allowed us to expand our Career Center from six workstations to 26 laptops, sourced through Apparo, and upgrade staff computers to be more efficient in our operations. Now, working with Bank of America’s WIT&O (Women in Technology & Operations) team, we can better deliver blended learning.”
Fontella explains the challenges of working remotely and the value of her relationship with Apparo. “We are a client-facing organization, so making the shift to working and serving remotely has been bittersweet, but crisis equals opportunity. It has pushed us to think more broadly regarding how we deliver programming. We reached out to Apparo for support in serving and working remotely:
- Serving remotely – “Through consulting with Stephanie McKee, we decided to go with Zoom for our workshops and coaching. As we prepare to deliver digital content, we apply best practices we learned from Apparo, which has been a tremendous value. The recent Zoom hack has caused some to ask why we are using Zoom, but I’ve learned best practices from Apparo, the right settings to ensure safety in this environment. The Apparo team has always been very supportive and accommodating. I didn’t have to take the time to explore options because Apparo is our go-to for tech guidance. There is no question, we follow Apparo’s guidance.”
- Working remotely – “We’ve always had Teams, but we never used it because we were in a small office, steps from each other. But now, we have to learn how to leverage the technology. Stephanie McKee and Jennifer Ray (Apparo) have taken the time to orient us, to make sure we are comfortable with that kind of communication. It’s hard not being able to interface with our team in person, but knowing we have the technology in place gives us a sense of ease, which is great.”
Fontella highlights key virtual programming for their clients and how it will help broaden their community reach and build awareness:
- “On April 9th, we launched the Professional Women’s Group via Zoom. This group is for those who came to Dress for Success Charlotte for career support and have now secured employment. They come together as a community every Thursday for a ‘Time out Thursday’ wellness check.”
- “We are also planning weekly Wednesday virtual training sessions, which will be open to any woman in our community who needs support. This will broaden our reach in the community and allow us to fully tell our story and demonstrate how we have evolved into workforce development. Today we are about ensuring the women in our community have the resources they need to thrive, fostering community and empowering women.”