Navy Yard Skill Initiative (NYSI) Graduate Highlight: Maria Lee

by Navy Yard
May 16, 2022

Meet Maria Lee, one of Tastykake’s newest Production Associates and one of the 14 individuals who graduated from the collaborative training program managed by PIDC’s Navy Yard Workforce Development Initiatives (NYSI) and University City’s District’s West Philadelphia Skills Initiative (WPSI). And after the completion of the program, Maria and the other graduates were offered full-time union- represented employment.

Maria comes from an education background however, she was looking for a change and heard about the three-week Production Associate Program to get connected to a new career at Tastykake. The program, she explains, helped develop skills such as conflict resolution, coaching and communication, and resume prep, for which she did not know how they would translate to her role as a Production Associate, but they did. She explains about these skills helped navigate the next steps in her career.

Harold Christmas, the Tastykake trainer, “was so patient and thorough,” she explains. “You never know but conflict resolution is needed, especially talking to other employees or leadership.” With that she is excited to pay it forward with helping train others as they come through the program.

Maria works the 2nd shift along with several other graduates from the program in the cupcake line as an inspector for product packaging before distribution. Today, May 16th marks 90 days of going to a job where it is as sweet as it smells feels great every day!

The Production Associate Program was originally designed to be in-person at the Navy Yard, but because of the COVID-19 response levels in February, the training was virtual with three in-person learning opportunities. It also was initially designed to connect graduates to a part-time Production Associate role starting at $14.60/hr., but after Tastykake HR leaders met and interviewed the cohort they offered all of them full-time union-represented roles starting at $17.35/hr.!  This is the first time a Production Associate has been able to connect directly to full-time employment in nine years! This program was the third collaborative professional development training program that is being managed by WPSI and PIDC, but the first with Tastykake. This program went so well that our Navy Yard Skills Initiative program is currently recruiting for another cohort.

If you want to have this career changing experience and you are interested in the Navy Yard Skills Initiative, please click the link for more information.