>> Madam Cardwell Dawson Workforce Development Program

Our Mission

The National Opera House (NOH) is a nonprofit organization based out of Pittsburgh, PA. Our primary mission is to preserve the arts, culture, and music in underserved communities. We welcome you to join us on this journey.

Madam Cardwell Dawson Workforce Development Program

10,000+ Hours of Training
Helping to decrease the unemployment crisis in our communities
National Opera House Workforce Development Program

We have made it our priority to build wealth within underserved communities through our workforce development program. Since its launch, MDM has trained over ten thousand (10,000) training hours under our Construction track, Administrator Track and Management track.

Within the last year we have generated eighteen (18) new jobs through the Madame Dawson Masters program. Sixty-four percent (64%) of the participants that have completed this program have established careers outside of the National Opera House.

It is important to note that individuals developed through the MDM programming created jobs as well by establishing their own businesses and hiring cohort participants.

The National Opera House is a Nonprofit Organization with 501(c)(3) status working to restore and maintain a historic home at 7101 Apple Street in Pittsburgh, PA. Through the preservation of this historical house, NOH continues a legacy of creative excellence and training that nurtures talent and widens access to opportunities. One of the ways in which the National Opera House has continued the legacy of creative excellence and nurturing talent is with the Madame Dawson Masters Workforce Development Program. The name of of workforce development program was dedicated to the founder of the National Negro Opera Company because Mary Cardwell Dawson believed in teaching and nurturing skills. Our workforce development supports the same mission, principles and values. 

Through research, assessments, and engagement with our participants we learned that it was helpful to outline and track where people started, where they were on their career journey and where they wanted to ultimately land. Setting goals and a specific destination allowed the participants and the trainers to make adjustments effectively. The goal of the our internally designed process is to give participants  a visual diagrammatic plan of the developed processes, policies, procedures and pipelines. This type of map guides the trainers, trainees and all related parties towards the established goals and objectives. Through development of these processes, we have designed a scalable model that builds an efficient method to grow and develop the workforce. The Masters program has developed eight detailed processes and pipelines in the workflow to successfully execute the program.

  • Recruitment
  • Interviewing
  • Onboarding
  • Orientation
  • Training
  • Professional Development
  • Workforce Placement
  • Off boarding 

In addition to the technical skills the program also provided a health and wellness component to all participants. Participants were educated on how to create balanced meal plans, prepare nutritious meals and use technology to plan a healthy lifestyle. A health coach was assigned to guide participants towards healthy lifestyle choices and nutrient rich meals were provided daily to help participants adopt this healthy eating culture. The coach provided education, a diet plan and the skills and tools necessary to succeed within the plan. 

Through time, barriers have been placed into the workforce preventing people from gaining skills, employment and earning a livable wage. We are not removing barriers at the National Opera House, we are creating a new path with a different solution through our system. Our process is solution based which provides participants the skills and mindset to become problem solvers. The Madame Dawson Masters has developed a curriculum for three(3) tracks; Artist Development, Administrative Coordinator and Preservation

Construction. Participants in each track receive classroom education with hands-on training. The duration of each track is six (6) weeks with a total of two hundred and forty (240) learning hours. After training, participants work in their related field for three (3) months. The curriculum was developed using industry standards, rigorous testing and compliance. Our Preservation Construction curriculum was developed in accordance with the National Council for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) and professionals in the field. Coupled with our top-of-the-line curriculum, the participants learn from trainers who are masters in their trade. In particular,
the Preservation Construction track has seen immense progress among its participants, several of which have graduated and started their careers in the construction industry. Four (4) cohorts were completed successfully through generous funding from the Allegheny Foundation. We completed three (3) cohorts through the Preservation Construction track and one (1) cohort through the Administrative Coordinator track. The Artist Development track will start in the fall of 2023.
The progress of the Madame Dawson Masters program is measured through three indicators: job creation, community relationships, and assessments. We track the advancement toward results by participants, their proficiency levels, efficiency, and productivity. We look at objective-based evidence that change is occurring and has occurred.

Job Creation – We have made it our priority to build wealth within underserved communities through our workforce development program. Since its launch, MDM has trained over seven thousand (7,000) training hours under our Construction track, Administrator Track and Management track. Within the last year we have generated eighteen (18) new jobs through the Madame Dawson Masters program. Sixty-four percent (64%) of the participants that have completed this program have established careers outside of the National Opera House. It is important to note that individuals developed through the MDM programming created jobs as well by establishing their own businesses and hiring cohort participants.

Civic Engagement – The workforce development program has allowed the National Opera House to engage with several communities and foster new relationships. NOH had developed a partnership with the Lincoln Lemington Community Consensus group. Within this group is a National Opera House committee that engages with the community and acts as a liaison for the Opera House. NOH offers a robust, intelligent business operation application solution to support the back-office, operations and accounting functions of MDM programs. In addition, we offer this solution to our participants and partners. Through this process we are able to collect and analyze data,
provide transparency and make decisions efficiently.. We use this solution to measure our progress towards our goals and objectives. Delivering this program has allowed us to garner one-thousand four hundred five (1,405) recorded relationships in our system, 15.3% are NOH advocates who support our mission and vision.

Assessments – For us to monitor each individual’s skill development and overall improvement, participants completed assessments throughout their training journey. The Madame Dawson Masters assessments were developed to accurately measure proficiency, efficiency and productivity. By the end of each three (3) month cycle, we expect to increase their skill development by at least fifty percent (50%). We asked participants to provide feedback about their experience in our program, all of which gets reviewed by our team and applied to our curriculum. By collecting this information, we are able to measure what tactics are effective and which are not helping us achieve our goals, allowing us to evolve our program efficiently.

The Curriculum:

Administrative Coordinator:
The Administrative Coordinator track prepares participants to be successful in a variety of industries, but specifically the Arts Administration industry. The goal of this track is to build the Arts Management workforce in the areas of Executive Assistant, Administrative Coordinator, Administrative Professional, Office Manager or Virtual Assistant. Our training provides participants with opportunities and transferable skills to build a great career developing software and hardware knowledge, administrative and organizational skills and interpersonal communications. The MDM training model prepares participants with cutting-edge skills in virtual assisting, event planning, organizing, grant writing, and scheduling. The Administrative Coordinator track equips participants with the skills to manage projects, troubleshoot technology, provide exceptional customer service, and craft professional business communication to maintain internal and external relationships. Upon completion, participants are equipped with the competency to coordinate the modern office environment while supporting managers, executives, and teams.

Preservation Construction
The MDM WFD curriculum designed for preservation construction ensures trainees complete the NCCER Level 1 Module and are trained in construction safety and compliance, drywall, painting, and carpentry. During the program, participants:
Complete OSHA Training

  • Perform the skills necessary for an entry level position in preservation and general construction
  • Demonstrate the ability to identify, use, and maintain tools and equipment
  • Practice proper safety procedures when using tools, handling materials, or performing tasks
  • Follow safe rules and regulations set up by the employer, the government, and OSHA
  • Learn financial and career pathing skills to build a long-term career
  • Develop leadership, interpersonal, and technical skills needed in the workforce Once this initial training is complete, the participants begin a ninety (90)-day apprentice period where master trainers guide the trainees through real on-the-job experiences. During this time, the trainees also:
  • Learn business and work-place etiquette
  • Learn marketing skills
  • Learn health, nutrition and receive wellness coaching
  • Receive coaching for interview, resume building, and soft skills
  • Receive counseling for career pathways and job-finding
  • Gain financial literacy tools such as budgeting, building bank, and retirement accounts

Our master trainers require trainees to complete an evaluation form for each of the skills taught during this program. Trainees answer questions and are observed completing the skill by the master trainers for approval of skill understanding and mastery. The skills include:

  • OSHA-10 Certification
  • Drywalling
  • Painting
  • Flooring Installation
  • Carpentry
  • Cabinetry
  • Tiling.

Graduates from the MDM Workforce Development Programs are kept in the NOH Alumni Network and can call on NOH as a resource that aids their professional development. This relationship benefits graduates with access to business development events as well as networking to continue their paths to career and financial success.

The Outcomes
The National Opera House has seen through the completion of four (4) cohorts of participants in the Administrative and Preservation Construction track. During these four (4) cohorts, NOH has celebrated two graduations consisting of twenty (20) individuals completing the programs. One of our graduates chose to complete the program twice, once as a general trainee and again as a construction manager in training. The Administrative Coordinator cohort helped the National Opera House create and implement processes, policies and procedures for the organization and the program. The Admin cohort also documented the process through pictures, assessments and reports. The Preservation Construction cohorts completed the full renovation of two buildings. The workforce development program has grown the capacity of the participating company partners and built capacity for all participating companies. Additionally, NOH has assisted partner business owners in progressing their business practices through the program.

The NOH workforce development does not only work with beginners with no experience, individuals with basic proficiency and understanding of each track are also welcomed to the program to increase their knowledge and enhance their current skills. Another unique feature of this program is the ability for participants to take the NCCER and other industry standard exams after the completion of the curriculum and apprenticeship for recognition of their work. Each graduate has obtained technical skills trained in their related cohort and soft skills that have been integrated throughout the training. Graduates from our program have obtained careers in their desired
occupation. They continue to nurture the skills they learned through the Masters program in their new roles. The skills of these graduates not only provide a successful career path, but their training also opens the door to work in preservation construction, theater construction, arts administration and all related fields. The National Opera House has developed an open communication with the graduates, and several have said they hope to start their own business and support each other in their journeys


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