When Sharon and Matthew Pierce expanded The Personal Chef, a seafood-focused catering and take-out business, they had many firsts. The New Jersey-based husband and wife duo weren’t familiar with Mount Airy where they ended up setting up shop last October.
They had also never heard of Job Corps.
The federal program, run by U.S. Department of Labor, gives participants the opportunity to learn a career, earn a high school diploma or GED and find a job.
Enrollees, who must be at least 16 years old and qualify as being low-income, are given free training before being placed at a business for an internship, which typically last for about six weeks.
Sharon Pierce, who learned about the program from a member of her church, now calls the initiative a blessing.
“It’s just a win-win situation for everyone,” said Pierce.
Having Job Corps students, she said, has enabled her to more easily juggle both sides of the operation without adding overhead.
Job Corps pays its interns and provides them with benefits at no cost to the employer.
In addition to the benefits the program brings to her bottom line , Pierce said using Job Corps students fit right in line with her personal mission to help others.
“We want to help young people find a way in life. We want to motivate them, tell them our story, how we started and that anything is possible if they get good people, good role models behind them. We’re all role models – rich, poor, big, tall,” said Pierce.
The Pierces launched The Personal Chef after both of them lost their jobs. Sharon Pierce had been a cook at a rehabilitation center in New Jersey. Matthew Pierce was a pastry chef at a casino in the Garden State.
Since opening in early October, Pierce has given five interns real-life experience in the industry and for one young man, a full-time job.
Jason Diggs was The Personal Chef’s first Job Corps intern. Before arriving at The Personal Chef, Diggs worked at Parx Casino in Bensalem in Montgomery County.
“I actually went to high school for automotive,” said Diggs, ” I got my first job at a casino as a prep cook and just liked what I was doing, I enjoyed it, and I decided I wanted to go to school for it.”
“Everything I learned at Job Corps, safety wise and cooking-wise, I use every day here. It’s introduced me to new types of food, new types of fish,” he added.
Among other things, Diggs helps with food preparation, plus cooking and cleaning.
Pierce said Diggs’ work ethic and ability to follow directions made him a good candidate for a job after his internship.
“Jason is well-rounded. He picks up really fast and I see the drive in him that I once had and he wants to learn and that’s what we’re here for,” said Pierce