years of serving career professionals in transition
The history of the Professional Development Collaborative, Inc. (PDC), is distinguished by the extraordinary role of volunteers. Volunteers have never played a “peripheral” role here; rather, they established the PDC and have managed it ever since!
From the PDC’s “formative” days in 2004 until its first training in 2010 and its recent workshops in the fall of 2013, volunteers have performed every imaginable task to keep this nonprofit organization functioning. The four constant key “volunteers” from Day One have been: Larry Elle, PDC’s President Emeritus and Senior Advisor, Emily Hutchinson, former Vice President, Tom Archer, Treasurer, and Gil Swire, former Project Manager.
The PDC evolved “organically” back in 2004, when, in the midst of a recession, several unemployed business executives attending WIND South meetings began discussing their need to acquire technical, business-related skills in order to find jobs. Soon, the idea shifted to action, and, with Elle leading the way, a group of volunteers formed several committees, drafted by-laws and created the corporate framework for the PDC.
It was an exciting, spontaneous outpouring of energy as the group, which included many members of WIND South (a networking group), began holding a flurry of meetings at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Canton, MA, where WIND South meets.
“I remember the enthusiasm and energy in the room,” recounted Elle. “It reached a critical mass.”
The group included 20 or so contributors from many lines of work who brought considerable talents to the table and got a lift from the project. Elle recalls that some volunteers felt: “I can’t find a job, but I‘m somebody here.”
Participants remarked, on occasion, “Do you know? We have enough talent at this table that we could run a business,” Elle recalled.
People naturally focused on the group’s goals more than their own individual agendas. They didn’t care about titles and formalities. They enjoyed collaborating.
“There was a ‘bottom-up’ way of doing things,” Elle recalled and it helped create a feeling of team-work. In fact, before breaking up, each member of the group signed a softball as a symbol of their teamwork.
But, then, just as the PDC was preparing its launch, the recession was diminishing and “the impetus for the group waned,” Elle said. “Everyone got rehired.” Elle suspended the plans to start the PDC. It turned out, the “pause” lasted until 2010, when unemployment heightened after the “Great Recession” of 2008-9. With the groundwork laid from 2004, Elle, with the support of a few key colleagues, decided it was time to try again.
2010: The PDC Starts Its Trainings
The PDC’s first training was held in the fall of 2010. In the beginning, the workshops were a bit more oriented toward business-related topics, but, the subject matter broadened over time.
The PDC took advantage of Larry Elle’s vast experience and contacts to recruit top-notch instructors willing to offer workshops at affordable prices. From 2010 to the present, the PDC offered trainings on topics ranging from “Essentials of Project Management” to “Presentation Skills for Professional Advancement” to “Microsoft Word.” Sometimes, the sessions last half a day, some last a full day and some are presented in a series of several classes on different days.
The PDC, from the outset, has always held its trainings in the most lean, efficient way – hosting most at its “home headquarters” at a training center at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Canton. Elle, still a facilitator at WIND South, often introduces the PDC’s instructors.
PDC Enters a New Phase in 2014
In 2014 — like in 2004 — it is the work of volunteers that keeps PDC running. The PDC has grown since its early days, and, soon anticipates starting a new chapter, when it hopes to raise more funds and perhaps expand its operation. This fall we launched a new website and an E-zine, an electronic newsletter.
During 2013, the PDC has also co-hosted some trainings with Career Source in Cambridge, one of the state’s best “one-stop” career centers. This collaboration has helped extend the PDC’s marketing reach and brought our workshops to greater numbers of people.
As in the past, the PDC employs several SCSEP employees and continues to rely heavily on volunteers to meet obligations and complete projects. SCSEP stands for the Senior Community Service Employment Program, a federally funded program to provide unemployed workers, 55 and older, with training and employment. They have made a significant contribution to the PDC by providing the additional professional skills needed to help this organization thrive.
Among the individuals who have made large contributions of time and energy as volunteers (or SCSEP employees) from 2010 to the present: David McGill, Pam Curtis, Bill Josephson, Lisa Maxwell, Sarah Ciriello, Kate Pulnik, David Heimann, Gary Sockut, Bill Dowd, Luis Vega, Tyler Putnam, Chris Buckles, Heather Kilgore, John Perkins, Marie Silk, Jeff Stevens, Peter Ajemian, and Lisa Gould.
No matter what the future holds for the PDC, its experience so far has demonstrated that the hard work of a handful of people can create an organization that makes a difference in people’s lives. If the organization is able to bolster its resources in the future, the Professional Development Collaborative will help thousands of professionals grow their professional skills and move their career forward.