12/29/11 — Wayne Community College class aims to help people improve job skills

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Wayne Community College class aims to help people improve job skills

By Steve Herring
Published in News on December 29, 2011 1:46 PM

A class to help people hone their employability skills has been launched at Wayne Community College and students are being sought for the next class that begins in January.

Angela Strickland, 53, who was in the program's November pilot class, said she would recommend the program to anyone.

"It is like a football game where they sometimes call a time-out and huddle to plan their strategy to continue towards their goals," she said. "It gives you the tools and information on how to land a job. It was like a breath of fresh air.

"You know all kinds of different things to do about landing a job, but this gives you a different edge."

Ms. Strickland, who had been an assistant office manager at a local accounting firm, has not gotten a job yet, but has been on job interviews and has more scheduled.

"Basically what we are trying to do is to get individuals in that may not have the necessary 'soft' skills to find a job," said Jena Cantwell, trainer/coordinator, Wayne Occupational Readiness Keys for Success (WORKS). "We want to get the target audience in because this is an employer-driven training. The employers of Wayne County asked for it. So we are now offering it.

"There is a focus group, a WORKS advisory board, and through that advisory board they found the CRC (Career Readiness Certificates) program is working exceptionally well. We are reaching out to a lot of people through the CRC, but they are finding these employees are coming in with technical skills, but they do not have the 'soft' skills in order to even make it through the interview process. They might get their foot in the door, but they don't know how to interview."

The hands-on, interactive training reviews 156 'soft' skills, she said.

"We always joke that you can't teach 'soft' skills, you have to train them and that is what I do," Mrs. Cantwell said. "I train them. It is discussion based and I keep the groups relatively small. There are no more than 16 people per class."

The class is for people weak in some areas who might have teamwork issues, or questions about customer service, issues with communications, communicating effectively, have interview problems or with being on time.

"They are skills that are non-technical hard skills," she said. "Basically you go into work and you know how to type on a computer and do the stuff that can be taught. The soft skills are the pleases and the thank yous -- basic manners but growing from that how to dress, how to interview, how to talk on the telephone, how to send an e-mail. It is work relationships. It is critical thinking, team building. It is all the non-technical skills.

"You can tell people you are not supposed to do that. You have them read a book and say go out and communicate effectively based off of that book. Or you can work with them and say let's work on this together."

Mrs. Cantwell said she does hands-on activities and then stands back and watches as the students communicate. Then she tells them what she observed and asks for their reactions.

"I spend an entire day on how to deal with difficult people, which is a team-building situation," she said. "It is the different personality types and how to deal with them."

The pilot class was held in November followed by a second class earlier this month.

Two orientation sessions for the next class will be held Jan. 5 at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The next class is scheduled for Jan. 9 through 13. Classes are held Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day. Friday's class is by appointment when local human resources officials come in and conduct mock interviews with the students.

"So the students dress like they are going to an interview and they go into an interview environment," she said. "They get graded by these human resources professionals on a behavior-based interview."

Each student has a finished resume by the time the free class ends.

Currently, the classes are held monthly, but Mrs. Cantwell thinks the schedule will be expanded.

"I would like to be very flexible with it possibly offering night classes, or even weekend and if necessary off campus where there is a big demand for it because it is such an essential part of the job now.

"A lot of people think you can teach them the computer stuff, you can teach them the technical part of the job. You can't teach them the soft skills stuff. People just don't have it anymore. They lose their temper at the drop of a hat. Sometimes people think they have all those skills, but when they take the class and realize that they don't have as many as they thought."

Anyone interested should contact Mrs. Cantwell at 739-7011 or at jmcantwell@waynecc.edu.