Debbie Andrews worked in the accounting department at Hampden Bank for 17 years before she was laid off with four of her co-workers due to budget cuts.
Now, after an intensive 15-week training program at Holyoke Community College, she is ready to start a new career -- as a call center customer service representative at the Liberty Mutual Insurance company in Springfield.
"This program has meant a lot to me," said Andrews, who lives in Chicopee. "Without this, I don't know where I'd be right now."
The Advanced Call Center and Customer Service Training program is a free program to help displaced workers reenter the workforce. It is a collaboration between HCC, Springfield Technical Community College, FutureWorks in Holyoke, CareerPoint in Springfield and the Regional Employment Board, and paid for by a grant from the Mass. Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.
Andrews was part of the second group of students to complete the training program, which required them to attend classes four to five hours a day, four days a week for 15 weeks.
She and her 17 colleagues were recognized today with certificates of completion. Like Andrews, many of them have already started news jobs as call center operators.
According to lead instructor Christina Atwater, the program consisted of 300 hours of classroom instruction, 45 hours on the telephone, speed interviews with area employers, guest speakers from potential employers, and tours of area call centers.
"The concepts you learned here, local employers want," said Pamela Thornton, business development manager for United Personal.
This was the second cohort of students to complete the program. The first program was held at STCC.
The next Advanced Call Center and Customer Service Training program begins at HCC on July 14.
For more information or to register, please call FutureWorks at (413) 858-2800 or CareerPoint at (413) 532-4900.
There is no cost to participants selected for the program.
Photos: (Left) Lead instructor Christina Atwater congratulates Debbie Andrews for completing the Advanced Call Center and Customer Service Training Program at HCC. (Right) Atwater talks to students completing the call center training program at HCC.