Home Posts tagged Careers
Workforce Development

The Heat Is On

Springfield Operations Manager Meagan Greene

The culinary world is a notoriously challenging place to forge a career, and turnover at the entry level is often high, a problem that constantly challenges restaurants, hotels, colleges, and a host of other food-service companies. Enter Snapchef, which has built a regional reputation for training those workers and matching them with workforce needs to help them get a foot in the door — and then, hopefully, kick it in.

It’s called ‘backfilling.’

That’s a concept businesses in many area industries — from financial services to marketing, from security to hospitality — have been thinking about as MGM Springfield has ramped up its efforts to hire some 3,000 people for its August opening.

Backfilling, simply put, it’s the replacement of an employee who moves on to a different opportunity, and MGM has undoubtedly caused a wave of that phenomenon locally. Because of the casino’s food-service operations, area restaurants, hotels, and other facilities that prepare and serve food have been doing quite a bit of backfilling as well.

If they can find adequate replacements, that is. That’s where Snapchef, a regional food-service training company that opened up shop in Springfield last year, can play a key role.

CEO Todd Snopkowski, who founded Snapchef 16 years ago, said the business model has proven successful in its other four locations — Boston, Dorchester, Worcester, and Providence, R.I. — and has found fertile ground in the City of Homes, where the need for restaurant workers has been on the rise.

“We train folks that are looking to make a career change,” he told BusinessWest. “And, being a staffing company, we don’t only train, we also match folks looking for work in the industry with jobs that are available. If they don’t have the skills to do a job, we actually train them, whether it be dishwashing, cooking, cheffing, you name it. We cover those bases and give them a foothold in the industry.”

As the largest culinary training and staffing company in New England, Snapchef essentially trains and provides staffing help to area food-service establishments. Clients range from large colleges and universities and hospitals to food-service corporations; from hotels and corporate cafeterias to hotels and restaurants.

We train folks that are looking to make a career change,” he told BusinessWest. “And, being a staffing company, we don’t only train, we also match folks looking for work in the industry with jobs that are available. If they don’t have the skills to do a job, we actually train them, whether it be dishwashing, cooking, cheffing, you name it. We cover those bases and give them a foothold in the industry.”

“If they come to me with little or no skills or just want to brush up, we guide individuals in that track,” said Meagan Greene, operations manager in Springfield, noting that Snapchef’s 13-week courses include fast-track culinary training, ServSafe food handling, and workplace safety, among other offerings.

“When the finish the apprentice program, we try to find them full-time jobs, where they can utilize their skills in the workforce,” she went on, noting that all of that is free. The training programs are grant-funded, while Snapchef’s partner employers pay for the hours the employee works, while SnapChef pays the employee directly, with pay depending on the position.

This isn’t culinary school, Greene stressed, but a place to learn enough to get into the culinary world, and advance career-wise from there — an idea Greene called “earning and learning.”

“We go over soups, stocks, sauces, emulsions, salad bar, deli prep. Sometimes, people will go out into the field, come back, and say, ‘hey, Meagan, I did this today at work; is there a better way to do it?’ We also do a little bit of baking, which isn’t our specialty, but you’ll learn how to make pies, quick breads, muffins, and danishes.”

The need for culinary workers, especially at the entry level, is constant, Greene noted, sometimes year-round and sometimes seasonally — for example, colleges need help between September and May, while Six Flags requires a wave of help between April and October.

“For some of the colleges, this will be their second school year with us, so they may buy out some of our employees because they liked them last year,” she told BusinessWest. “It’s kind of bittersweet for us, because the people who get bought out or move forward or find their own job — those are your keepers. Those are the ones who show up for work every day, people who are clean and on time and ready to rock. I’m like, ‘noooo!’ But it’s nice to see somebody move forward.”

Moving forward, after all, is what it’s all about once that foot is in the door.

Slow Burn

Snopkowski has grown Snapchef from its original home Dorchester into a regional force that has trained thousands of workers for potentially rewarding careers in what is, admittedly, a tough field to master, and one where good help is valuable.

Clients have ranged from individual restaurants and caterers to Foxwoods Resort Casino and Gillette Stadium, as well as large food-service corporations like Aramark, Sodexo, and the Compass Group.

Snapchef CEO Todd Snopkowski

Snapchef CEO Todd Snopkowski

“With my background, being a corporate chef, I saw the need for an organization like Snapchef 25 years ago. And I think there’s a huge opportunity down the road for even more expansion,” said, noting that MGM Springfield itself poses significant opportunity. “We’re supporting them, and for businesses suffering the loss of people taking these awesome jobs MGM has to offer, we’re there to make sure we backfill the vacancies.”

Snapchef’s growth has led to a number of accolades for Snopkowski, including the 2015 SBA Small Business Person of the Year award for Massachusetts, and the 2016 Citizens Bank Good Citizens Award. And it has inspired people like Greene, who see the value in training the next generation of food-service workers.

She works with the state Department of Labor and the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County to create apprenticeship models, teaching participants everything from basic knife skills to how to conduct themselves in a kitchen. She also helps them append their résumés based on what they’ve learned.

After studying culinary arts at a vocational high school and earning three degrees from Johnson & Wales University, she became a sous chef at Sturbridge Host Hotel, not far from her home in Warren. She loved the job — and the commute — but traded it in for an opportunity to work for Snapchef.

“To be honest, I’m never bored. I’m always doing something different,” she said, and that’s true of many of her trainees, who typically begin with temporary placements, which often become permanent. But not all are seeking a permanent gig, she added; some love the variety of ever-changing assignments.

“Some people love it because it’s a lifestyle for them,” she said. “They want to work over here, then they come back to me and say, ‘hey, Meagan, I wasn’t really liking that spot; I don’t want to go back there. I didn’t like the size of the kitchen. It was too big for me; I’m used to working in a smaller kitchen.’” I’ll say, ‘OK, I’ll try not to send you back there.’ And it’s a two-way street; clients can say, ‘I don’t want Joe Smith back.’”

Because the training is free, Snapchef offers an attractive opportunity for people who want to get a food in the door in food service.

Finishing Touches

As a company that fills a needed gap — as culinary schools aren’t typically training for entry-level positions — Snopkowski said Snapchef has made significant inroads in Western Mass. over the past year, especially working with FutureWorks Career Center to identify individuals looking to shift into the world of food service.

“Our employees don’t have to pay for transition training and all those attributes that are needed to get a foothold in the business,” he told BusinessWest. “It’s good to see that MGM recognizes it, the colleges as well.”

Speaking of financial perks, Snapchef-trained employees may access round-trip transportation from the Springfield office to their job sites across the region, for only $3 per day, Greene said. “It’s cheaper than Uber, cheaper than Lyft, and better than having your mom come pick you up and drop you off. If you live in the city and are used to taking the bus everywhere, you don’t have to worry about how to get to work.”

As for Greene, she continues to enjoy the variety of her work — a pickling enthusiast, she taught a recent class how to pickle vegetables, and they prepared 300 jars worth — as well as the success stories that arise from it, like a man trained by Snapchef who went on to further his education at Holyoke Community College and is now opening a restaurant with his daughter.

“I’ve had the opportunity to see people progress in a short period of time,” she said. “It’s nice to see someone grow so fast. I love that.”

Snopkowski has seen plenty such stories unfold in the 16 years his company has been training people for a new, challenging career, and then helping them build a foothold in the industry.

“We’ve only been able to scratch the surface; there are so many other opportunities out there,” he said. “The future is bright in culinary.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

People on the Move
Tracy Sicbaldi

Tracy Sicbaldi

PeoplesBank announced the appointment of Tracy Sicbaldi as assistant vice president, Commercial and Institutional Banking. She has more than 35 years of financial-services and banking experience. In her new position, she will identify, develop, and manage new municipal, commercial, and institutional deposit relationships. Sicbaldi is the former treasurer of the towns of Hampden and Monson. She is a member of the Massachusetts Collectors and Treasurers Assoc., the Hampden County Collectors and Treasurers Assoc., the Hampshire and Franklin Collectors and Treasurers Assoc., and the Worcester County Collectors and Treasurers Assoc. She is a former member of the Eastern Mass Treasurers and Collectors Assoc. and attended all educational state and county municipal meetings. Her professional volunteer service includes serving as treasurer, vice president, and president of the Professional Women’s Chamber; the finance chair of the Rays of Hope steering committee; and a past board member of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield (ACCGS) and the YWCA of Western Massachusetts.

•••••

Jeanne Woods

Jeanne Woods

Florence Bank promoted Jeanne Woods to the position of assistant vice president and branch manager for the bank’s Amherst location. Woods joined Florence Bank in 2001 and previously served as assistant branch manager of the Amherst office. She is a development committee member for the Amherst Survival Center. “We are thrilled to announce the promotion of Jeanne Woods,” said Florence Bank President and CEO John Heaps Jr. “She is a dedicated and valued employee who consistently delivers great results. She has been an asset to the bank for many years, and I look forward to watching her progress even further in the years to come.”

•••••

Lynn Ostrowski-Ireland

Viability Inc. announced that Lynn Ostrowski-Ireland has been appointed chief operating officer, a new position within Viability, reporting directly to President and CEO Dick Venne. As COO, Ostrowski-Ireland will be responsible for overseeing the operation of Viability’s programs and services across the 36 locations in five states in which it currently operates. Ostrowski-Ireland is the former executive director of the National Aetna Foundation, where she led strategic grants and programs and enterprise-wide corporate social-responsibility strategy and reporting. She also held numerous leadership positions at Health New England, including director of Marketing, Communications and Brand, director of Community Relations and Health Programs, and director of Corporate Responsibility & Government Affairs. She is recognized for her expertise in population health and addressing social determinants of health, and has addressed national audiences on many public-health topics, most recently keynoting at the National Cancer Foundation and the National Oncology Nurses Congress. Ostrowski-Ireland has achieved several certificates of advanced study from Harvard Business School of Executive Education as well as Johns Hopkins University. She holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Springfield College, and a Ph.D. from Capella University. She was honored at the 2017 Bay Path University Women’s Leadership Conference and inducted into the Bay Path University Women’s Leadership Hall of Fame.

•••••

The board of directors of the Ludlow Community Center/Randall Boys & Girls Club announced that Mechilia “Chile” Salazar has accepted the role of president and CEO of the center. Salazar previously served as executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Middlesex County in Somerville. Her experience also includes positions as chief Development officer of the Base in Roxbury and Room to Grow in Boston. “I am excited to join such a committed group of leaders at the Randall Boys & Girls Club and build on the best of the team and organization,” she said. “I look forward to working relentlessly to ensure that the club continues to be a positive place where every young person feels loved, knows that they matter, and has access to the resources and opportunities to succeed. I am excited about harnessing the strength of this tight-knit community that has helped make the culture in and outside the club great.”

•••••

Chris Palames

Disability-rights activist Chris Palames is the recipient of this year’s Distinguished Service Award from Holyoke Community College. Palames is the founder of the Stavros Center for Independent Living in Amherst, executive director of Independent Living Resources in Florence, and a retired consultant for the Massachusetts Division of Capital and Asset Management, which manages construction projects for publicly owned facilities in the state. He has served on the Northampton Commission on Disability and the Massachusetts Disability Policy Consortium, and frequently advises the staff in HCC’s Office for Students with Disabilities and Deaf Services. HCC President Christina Royal presented the Distinguished Service Award to Palames at HCC’s 71st commencement ceremony at the MassMutual Center in Springfield on June 2. Palames began his life as an activist as a freshman at Wesleyan University in the 1960s, demonstrating for civil rights on the White House lawn. A spinal-cord injury left him a quadriplegic, but, after a year recuperating, he was back, protesting the Vietnam War and completing his bachelor’s degree in psychology.

•••••

Dr. Mark Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health, is the 78th chair of the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Assoc. board of trustees. He succeeds Kate Walsh, president and CEO of Boston Medical Center. In his inaugural address, Keroack discussed his deep interest in the major policy proposals and other efforts now underway to advance healthcare both statewide and nationally. He also acknowledged that many of these endeavors are currently overshadowed by disruptive challenges buffeting hospitals, health systems, and other care providers. “We must reconnect with our core purpose, to remind both our team members and our communities of who we are and what we have always been,” he said. “We need to remind ourselves of our history of being there for our communities for generations, reliably serving all those who need our help, innovating, and caring for the person and not just the disease. And as we step up, as we find our voice, I believe we will learn something about ourselves and what we share in common.”

•••••

Brooke Hallowell, dean of the Springfield College School of Health Sciences and Rehabilitation Studies, was one of 14 signatories for international associations that founded the initiative of the Global Rehabilitation Alliance (GRA), which gathered for the first time on May 22 at the World Health Assembly hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva. Hallowell will continue to serve as a founding representative to the Global Rehabilitation Alliance for the next three years. The alliance will be a platform for united advocacy and awareness-raising to strengthen rehabilitation in health and social systems around the world. Many organizations serve this goal through working to improve accessibility to services, quality of care, the building of rehabilitation workforce capacity, and strengthening of data collection. The Global Rehabilitation Alliance will aim to further these efforts through raising the profile of rehabilitation and strengthening networks and partnerships. Hallowell has a global reputation in collaborative development of rehabilitation services and frameworks, especially in under-resourced regions. Most recently, she held adjunct faculty appointments and visiting professorships at universities in Korea, Malaysia, and Honduras. She is involved in current research, educational, and clinical program collaboration in Malaysia, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Vietnam, Russia, and Honduras.