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City Market Partners with VSAC for Career & Wellness Education

Written by
Sabina Haskell

February 26, 2021


Mitchell Manacek

Mitchell Manacek, a generalist with City Market’s people and culture department, explains the motivation behind the co-op’s worksite wellness program:

“It boils down to the idea that when people are healthy and happy, they bring their best versions of themselves to work,” he explains. He notes that City Market is first and foremost a community-centric organization and its staff members are part of the Burlington community, so wellness programming that supports staff helps the larger community as well.

 “There are different pillars of worksite wellness programming, and they include physical wellness—like fitness and good nutrition—mental and emotional wellness, and even things like financial wellness,” he says, noting that City Market has a great partnership with Vermont Federal Credit Union, which provides financial education and counseling to staff.

Career wellness is also part of the mix, which is what drew the co-op to Rhonda Chesney, program manager of VSAC’s Career & Education Wellness initiative.

Rhonda kicked off her work at City Market with a motivated skills workshop attended by about a dozen staff.

Mitchell describes the work as “a fun activity where you look at 50 or so different skills—skills like writing, customer services, budgeting, decision-making, computer literacy—all skills that permeate the business landscape.”

“You take these skills and determine your level of proficiency with each,” he relates. “The other side of the matrix is how much you, as an individual, enjoy using each skill.”

After completing the activity, each employee had the opportunity to meet with Rhonda one-on- one to discuss the results and how they fit into the individual’s career goals.

“During that second part, we focused on skills we identified we’re highly proficient at and we enjoy working with,” Mitchell states. He said Rhonda helped each participant reflect on where that skill developed and the experiences they’d had that led to proficiency and enjoyment with the skill.

Mitchell gave an example of a skill he’s examined through his own work with Rhonda.

“I identified that I’m both highly proficient and totally delighted by entertaining and performing. In my other crazy life outside of City Market, I’m a local musician. So that skill is a hugely important part of my life,” he says.

But he said he also realized that among the many hats he wears as a generalist in people and culture—staff wellness, recruiting, onboarding, workers’ comp, injury reporting, and just trying to build the team and the culture—he’s also a performer.

“I’m entertaining and performing all the time—at a mic during employee orientations, during large all-management meetings, giving trainings to staff—it all takes this skill,” he quips. “And at one point during my history with the food industry before City Market, I was a craft bartender. Being a bartender also takes performing.”

Mitchell explains that the motivated skills matrix helps employees reframe what they bring to their work.

“Instead of thinking about your experience in terms of ‘I held this position and that position,’ you think about the skills you have and where they came from and how they’ve become a part of who you are,” he notes.

The motivated skills matrix was just the first step in Rhonda’s work with the co-op staff, in Mitchell’s words, “to provide a very structured way for staff to reflect on their job history and skill sets.”

The next phase, he says, is a résumé “coffee talk” with Rhonda—an informal chance for employees who’ve completed the first workshop, and even those who haven’t, to “pick the brain of an expert” on writing a résumé and keeping it up to date.

Mitchell allows that the program may be helping staff improve their résumés and leave City Market to find their next opportunities, but said it isn’t a concern.

“Of course, we really don’t want our employees to leave—we love having long-term employees stick around and lend their experience to the co-op,” he stresses, noting that the organization is proud of the long average tenure among management and staff. “We also love to see our staff grow at the coop,” he said, noting that he himself grew into his current role after joining City Market. He thinks the Career & Education Wellness program—and all wellness programming helps meet this goal.

“We try to think about our wellness program holistically—supporting people as people and not just strictly according to their job description,” he relates.

“It’s been really fun to see our staff get engaged,” he says. “Wellness programming can create this element of fun and awareness of work/life balance. You can start very small. You don’t need to have outlandish goals or a huge budget. Some of the fun challenge for us is to get really creative at providing low-cost activities,” he adds.

VSAC’s program fits well into that model.

“It was really important for us that Rhonda was able to be flexible and able to meet us where we are and where we need to be,” he notes. “All businesses are different. All people are different. We were able to look at her collection of program options and find a good fit for City Market.”

About Career & Education Wellness

Career & Education Wellness is an employer-based program from Vermont Student Assistance Corp., with dozens of course offerings relevant to employees’ needs and interests, whether for themselves or their family members.

More and more jobs require advanced skills, and the cost of education continues to be a challenge for many Vermonters. Career & Education Wellness is an opportunity to help employees expand the skills they bring to work every day and to help them navigate their children’s education.

Several workshop offerings are tailored to assist employees with their own education needs, while other workshops are designed specifically to address the needs of employees with children in Vermont school systems and to provide support through career and college planning, enrollment, and success.

Where one employee may want more information about saving for college or making sure their child is ready for school, another may need to better understand the ins and outs of personalized learning plans, flexible pathways and proficiency-based graduation requirements for their high schooler.

Others may be looking for guidance on how to tackle the college/training search and how to pay for college. Still others would benefit from workshops on loan repayment, or loan forgiveness. 

To learn more, contact Rhonda Chesney,