Sunday, April 5, 2009

Skill-building in tough economic times

For nearly three years, our workforce board has shepherded the growth of the WorkReady™ Credential Program (WRC) in Central/Western Maine.

The employer community has been onboard since the beginning, recognizing that the soft skills imparted by a foundational program like WorkReady™, is exactly what they've been looking for. Some however, most notably those on the public side of the equation, have been slower to embrace the program, often not quite understanding the dimensions of the program, or questioning the veracity and effectiveness of 60 hours of intense soft skills training.

It has been my experience that once the program is observed firsthand, however, it becomes apparent where its strengths lie, and why WorkReady™ is effective in preparing candidates for the world of 21st century work.

One of the advantages that we've had in Central/Western Maine is that the sheer number of times we've been directly involved in coordinating the program has allowed us to witness the curriculum's unique capacity to provide a diverse group of trainees exactly what was necessary for them, individually.

The WorkReady™ curriculum has weathered well with people who've been out of the workforce for any variety of reasons, one of them being the lack of marketable skills. It has been effective with workers with a wealth of experience, who may have lost their job, and needed to reskill, particularly in the areas of resume prep, interviewing, and how to engage with employers using 21st century technology. It has had success with candidates that had skills, but for a variety of reasons, lacked self-esteem, and the confidence to present well enough to be effective in landing the job they are most qualified for.

Each one of these categories were represented on Friday, when the second WorkReady™ program held its graduation, at The Center, in downtown Waterville. Eight candidates participated in the graduation ceremony, which began with a 45 minute portfolio review, allowing the graduates to demonstrate their capacity to present their work, and the efforts they've put into learning how to talk about their skills, abilities, and how these translate into employability.

The Center, located in what once was the former Sterns building, and now utilized by REM Partners, is a great meeting space in the heart of what will be a thriving downtown in a few short years. Several local businesses participated, as well as community partners, including the Mid-Maine Chamber, the Central Maine Growth Council, the United Way of Mid-Maine, and representatives from both Senator Snowe's and Senator Collins' offices.

WorkReady™ continues to gain advocates across the state, providing the kind of foundational skill-building that will be necessary to meet the workforce needs of Maine, particularly when the economy bounces back.

[Waterville's second WorkReady graduation class]

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