Preparing Workers to Succeed at OBT


At Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow, New Yorkers are training for in-demand jobs


The nature of work has changed dramatically in recent years, and the nonprofits that serve New York workers have to keep up. At Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow, that means continually re-evaluating what jobs they are training workers for and introducing new programs that allow clients to compete in today’s job market.
When OBT was founded in 1983, it trained unemployed and underemployed workers for Midtown back office jobs, like the mail room. “But these jobs no longer represent the majority of our placements,” says CEO Liliana Polo-McKenna. “We have had to evolve our training and preparation to meet a broader variety of jobs and candidate interests.”
In the past few years, OBT has added training opportunities for medical, technology, and construction industries. In each training course, graduates come away with industry-recognized certifications.
The newest offerings include TechStart, a web design and coding class. Aspiring tech workers learn programming languages to build websites and crucial skills to design them. They also become proficient in Adobe Photoshop.
But OBT also has classes for those who would rather work with their hands. They have created a masonry program in partnership with Greenwood Cemetery that trains workers to safely restore stone structures at the historic Brooklyn institution.



For OBT, which is based in south Brooklyn but has a city-wide reach, it all comes down to guiding their community members along the path to a first job or to a job with family-sustaining wages. For someone who has never had a job before, career success takes a lot more than technical education.
“Soft skills – what we call essential skills – those are make or break for success in the workplace,” says Polo-McKenna. OBT is known for emphasizing these essential skills, which include learning how to problem solve to resolve conflicts or manage up. The organization also provides other support services – like mental health referrals, immigration services, and English classes – to ensure that other barriers do not prevent workers from succeeding on the job.
The organization has been working with some employers for 20 years or more. These companies know that OBT is about more than a quick staffing solution – in fact, placing the job applicant is only the beginning of the relationship. OBT is a constant presence for its clients, ensuring that they have the support they need to succeed in their new career and that they have opportunities to grow.
Sometimes, a couple years on the job can help them discover that they actually would be happier in another career, and again OBT will be there to help. As part of CWE’s Jobs to Build On network, OBT is able to connect its clients to more advanced training at other network partners. For instance, OBT graduate Sinad Wadsworth was interested in a career change and was referred to another JTBO partner, Nontraditional Employment for Woman. She is now working in the unionized building trades.
Funding through Jobs to Build On, which is supported by the New York City Council, allows OBT to be flexible and responsive in providing these services to any New Yorker who walks through their door.  The organization served 4,000 New Yorkers with job training and education services last year.
That is economic opportunity for New York’s working families, one job at a time.