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Program aims to provide customer service skills to future NIZ workers

By , - Last modified: January 13, 2014 at 9:49 AM

Customer service and communication soon will be in high demand in Allentown as an abundance of new jobs is expected to be created in the city’s downtown Neighborhood Improvement Zone.

That's why Lehigh Carbon Community College this month is offering a new noncredit course, Customer Service and Communication. The five-day-a week course will begin Jan. 27 at the college's center city Allentown campus, formerly known as the Donley Center, and last 12 weeks.

"We want people to be prepared so that when the jobs appear, they are ready with the marketable skills needed to hit the ground running," said Barbara Platt, LCCC's job training coordinator and administrator for the program.

NIZ is a special taxing district of 128 acres in the city's downtown and along the western side of the Lehigh River that encourages development and revitalization by awarding tax incentives to developers.

One project set to bring jobs to the downtown by fall is the PPL Arena, a 10,000-seat ice hockey arena, concert venue and home to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms minor league team. Additionally, an 11-story office complex, serving as National Penn Bank's headquarters, will be completed by spring. A host of restaurants and retail businesses also is expected to arrive with the completion of a five-story luxury apartment building this year.

"A lot of people who live in these areas may not have the funds to take this type of class or have the basic work experience needed for the entry-level jobs that will be coming to the downtown," Platt said. "Now they will be better equipped to acquire one of those jobs, with a chance to walk to work, eliminating transportation expenses."


Funding for the customer service program is available to participants through a federal grant from the 1998 Workforce Investment Act, the largest source of federal funding to provide workforce development activities for low-income and unemployed people. Additional funding is available from the Century Fund, a charitable trust created by the late Donald P. Miller, the former publisher and chairman of The Morning Call in Allentown.

Classes for LCCC's Customer Service and Communication program run through April 25, Monday through Friday, from noon-3:45 p.m. at LCCC-Allentown, 718 Hamilton St. The cost of the semester is $2,399, while books are an additional $35.

Pre-screening for funding eligibility will be available at an information session at 11 a.m. Jan. 21 on the 7th floor of LCCC-Allentown.

For more information or to register, call 610-799-1582 or email ncregistrar@mymail.lccc.edu.


Another initiative to help provide career resources and employees is the Allentown Employment and Training Center – at LCCC's downtown campus – a workforce, training and development center. The center spawned from a partnership between the college, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, Allentown NIZ Authority, Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board Inc. and Pennsylvania CareerLink Lehigh Valley.

Since opening in September, nearly 1,000 people have used AETC's services.

"We are preparing the workforce now, in anticipation of what is to come," said Nancy Dischinat, executive director of Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board Inc.

Pennsylvania CareerLink Lehigh Valley, in East Allentown, is a collaborative project between multiple agencies to provide career services to Pennsylvania employers and potential employees and is operated under the direction of the state Department of Labor and Industry.

The Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board Inc., a nonprofit in the same building with and serving as the hub for Pennsylvania CareerLink, is the connection between the workforce and training entities.

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Jennifer Glose

Jennifer Glose

Reporter Jennifer Glose covers health care, Berks County and other topics. She can be reached at jenniferg@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 111. Follow her on Twitter @jenniferg_LVB and read her blog, “Networking,” at http://www.lvb.com/section/networking-blog.

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