4 minute read

Not a Job, But a Career

Food Bank of Delaware develops career skills for unemployed and underemployed adults


LEARNING VALUABLE CAREER SKILLS can be a tremendous challenge when simultaneously facing the reality of being unemployed or underemployed. These adults are often stuck in a discouraging cycle of the inability to acquire a job that provides enough to sustain their lives and families while also acquiring the skills needed for a rewarding career opportunity. Additionally, they may face other barriers to employment such as caretaker responsibilities, substance use, incarceration, or health issues.

The Food Bank of Delaware, with locations in Newark and Milford, provides two Delaware Department of Education recognized training programs that prepare these adults for meaningful career opportunities through dedicated classroom work, on-the-job training, experiential learning, and continuous comprehensive support. These programs are made possible through the support of funders.

The Food Bank of Delaware’s first training program, The Culinary School (TCS), has been in operation since 2002 and plays an important role as the restaurant and food service industry drives forth Delaware’s economy. Under the instruction of the Food Bank’s chef instructors, students spend 14 weeks learning basic and high-end kitchen skills as well as the opportunity to become ServSafe© certified in preparation for entry level jobs in the culinary and food service industry.

The Logistics, Operations, General Warehousing, and Inventory Control (LOGIC) Training Program has been in operation since 2018 and is building from the Operations Department’s years of warehousing and logistics experience. The 11-week program prepares students for careers in the industry as well as offering an opportunity to receive OSHA-10 General Industry Certification and a Forklift Certification. The final two weeks of the program provide on-the-job paid work experience at a partner employer or onsite warehouse.

Anna McDermott, senior director of workforce and community development for the Food Bank of Delaware, shared how the programs are designed to equip students with not just specific job skills but also the soft-skills and confidence to be continuously successful. “We can’t just push students through our programs,” Anna explains. “They must be able to adapt to the demands of the workplace, and our students have been doing that consistently and building success in their new roles. Our students are leaving the programs knowing that they can achieve anything they set their mind to.”

Over the past 20 years, the program has evolved to best serve the needs of the community through those showcased by students. During times of high unemployment, students often need vocational skills more than confidence—while in times of low unemployment, students typically experience multiple barriers to acquiring a career. The impact of other factors such as the opioid epidemic leads to gaps in employment that make it more challenging even when support is needed most. The Food Bank of Delaware adapts its programs to fit these needs and provide the support that helps adults recover from their employment gaps and acquire a longterm career.

Our job training programs help adults enter a career versus a job to help them provide for their families going forward. We help people become more food secure today while also planning to secure their needs tomorrow.

The Food Bank of Delaware has recognized how its programs have become increasingly important over the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’ve anticipated that the pandemic repercussions have been critical to those we serve,” Anna states. “Our job training programs help adults enter a career versus a job to help them provide for their families going forward. We help people become more food secure today while also planning to secure their needs tomorrow.”

The Food Bank of Delaware is aiming to strengthen its programs and continue creating new value for students in the upcoming years. “We plan to develop culinary training to support adults with disabilities through new pilot programs,” Anna explains. “We’re also looking to add additional certifications for the LOGIC program as well as designing new ways to develop a strong pipeline of talent directly to employers. It’s important that we keep an eye on what is happening outside of our programs to understand what students are encountering once in the work world.”

“I am grateful to our team who cares deeply about making sure our students have every opportunity to succeed,” Anna reflects. “The Superstars in Education award is recognition of our dedication and student success over the past 20 years. We could not do this without their support, and it is a privilege to contribute and make a meaningful difference.”