Workforce graduation for Island Harvest


Island Harvest, a human service organization and food bank dedicated to addressing the root causes of hunger on Long Island, celebrated the graduation of its third class from the Workforce Skills Development Institute’s warehousing and inventory control training program. 

Island Harvest launched the Workforce Skills Development Institute to combat the root issues of unemployment and the lack of skills needed to secure well-paying jobs. 

The program was initiated in January for the warehousing and inventory control class of fall 2023.

The warehousing and inventory control training program spans five weeks and equips students with essential skills. Graduates of the program can earn up to six credentials, including forklift operator certification, OSHA 10 certification, and certificates of completion in various areas such as computers, warehousing and logistics, and food safety.

The program is divided into two parts, technical skills training and employability skills development. The technical skills portion focuses on warehouse operations and machinery operation, while the employability skills component includes soft skills like communication and teamwork, as well as practical workplace habits such as resume writing, applying for jobs, creating cover letters, and honing interview skills. 

Island Harvest partners with local employers who offer field trips to provide students with real-world insights into warehouse operations.

The program’s graduating class was Maxine Ali and Jason Bass of Freeport, Jawan Davenport of Glen Cove, Chad Dorival and Frantz Petion Jr. of Hempstead, Jose Gomez-Vigil, Brian Haley, and William Kang from various locations, Max Paravante of West Islip, and George Zhao of Great Neck

The graduation ceremony took place on Nov. 3 in Central Islip at Sysco Long Island at 199 Lowell Ave. Suffolk County local officials presented citations to the graduates. Additionally, students were chosen to speak on behalf of their class, and an alumnus from a previous class who is now employed with one of the program’s partner employers returned to share his success story.

Chief Workforce Development Officer Maria Arianas, highlighted the ongoing support provided to the graduates even after graduation.

“Even though the classroom portion of this program was five weeks long, we offer career coaching for the next 12 months,” Arianas said. “We will stay with our graduates for the next 12 months, helping them in their career search, interviewing, and providing career coaching to reinforce retention at work.”

Island Harvest’s Workforce Skills Development Institute continues to make a positive impact on Long Island.

“We also had elected officials who brought citations from their local towns that they live with, so the graduates left not only with actual certifications and credentials they earned but really nice acknowledgements from the local elected officials,” Arianas said.

Bass, a graduate from Freeport described the program as a comprehensive five-week experience focused on warehouse operations. 

“The program allowed me the opportunity to really understand and really to rebuild myself or rebuild other people in terms of learning,” Bass said. “So, we covered all of kinds of skills, resume, training, math, reading.” 

Bass learned to operate forklifts and electric power pallet jacks while embarking on enlightening field trips to companies with a similar workforce. He feels the program not only equipped him with technical skills but also covered essential areas like resume building, math, reading, and even nutrition, offering a holistic approach to workforce development.

Bass’s decision to join the program was driven by the impact of the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike on his work as a camera operator and gaffer, both in the freelance sector and non-union industry. The SAG-AFTRA strike is an ongoing labor strike in the entertainment industry, primarily affecting film and television production, initiated by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists to demand better working conditions and compensation for its members.

He recognized the need for additional credentials to secure a warehouse job, providing him with much-needed job stability during these challenging times for the film industry. Bass’s story sheds light on the importance of adaptable skill development during uncertain times and helping individuals like him transition and thrive in new career paths.