Work Inc. helps residents use BPL branches to connect to jobs

Work Inc. has helping people with disabilities enter the workforce for nearly 50 years. Now the Dorchester-based organization is using its expertise to help people from all walks of life plug into job opportunities through pop-up career counseling based in Boston Public Library branches in the neighborhood.

The group’s D-CAP project — short for Dorchester Career Access Points— is helping people who have struggled to find employment by plugging a gap in the city’s career counseling front.

“We realized that our employment services are easily adaptable to anyone with a barrier to employment,” said Stephen Aalto, Work Inc.’s vice-president for workforce development. “Career centers have struggled recently. Many don’t have the resources for outreach, so that’s what we do – we work as connectors.”

After identifying libraries as “natural partners” for reaching out to the community, D-CAP began offering its services at the BPL’s Fields Corner, Adams Street, and Codman Square branches last year. “There are a lot of misinterpretations of what career centers do,” said Aalto. “We wanted to refresh that image of the career center.”

Statistically, Dorchester still posts some of the highest unemployment figures in Boston while also showing the least amount of career center activity. Convenient access to a career center is seen as contributing to the shortfall.

For many, the closest main center is Career Link in Lower Roxbury; the other is the Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) in the Financial District. A lot of people remain unaware of these centers while others may be uncomfortable or intimidated by the walking in the door.

David Kapolis is on the front lines of the initiative for Work Inc. He serves as a “navigator” — meeting one-on-one with people who seek out the help at the library branches. His community engagement work can be distilled to a simple two-part approach.

“There are two things people look at. No. 1, are you going to be able to trust this person? No. 2, are you going to be able to respect this person? If you can determine ‘yes’ for both of those things, things are gonna go smoothly.”

Kapolis said many of the people he works with remain unemployed despite already having engaged with career centers during the job search process. “I meet people where they are and I talk their language,” he said. “There’s no ego, there’s no judgment. I want to make them feel understood.”

“There was a young lady in her mid-20s who came to us at the Fields Corner library,” Kapolis said. “She had been to Boston Career Link for a job fair, and was interviewed by a couple of companies but was not offered a job. I asked her if she had accessed any of the other services there, but she wasn’t aware of them...Career planning, resume writing workshops, financial education workshops; there’s a lot of free programming that folks don’t know about.”

Ultimately, one of D-CAP’s main goals is to change people’s perception of career centers. Kapolis encounters many who are frustrated and jaded by the inefficiencies and inequalities of the workforce system, a sentiment he says he understands.

“We work in a system that’s fragmented. Frankly, I think it’s pretty broken. With this program...we’re looking to kind of break down institutional silos. So far we’ve had lots of challenges, but lots of successes, too,” he said.

D-CAP operates at the Adams Street library every Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and every Friday from 9:30 a.m. to noon; and at the Fields Corner library every Monday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For information about the services D-CAP provides or to set up an appointment, visit workinc.org.