Educators address employer concerns
Published 2:00 am Saturday, May 4, 2013
Area employers have bemoaned the lack of preparedness with candidates hoping to land a job at their business or industry — a weakness area educators are stepping up to address.
At Hope Place, a division of Escambia County Extension Service, currently offers classes on being prepared for the job hunt are being conducted in an effort to have workers ready for jobs when they are available.
Employers in Brewton have said that one of the biggest problems they find is not that applicants are untrained or untrainable for the work but that they lack basic job hunting skills or work ethic. Problems have ranged from incomplete applications or resumes to the extreme of text messaging during an interview.
Melissa McMillan, a teacher for the Youth Workforce Advantage class at Hope Place, said the classes are addressing issues she continues to hear from employers all around town. “We are here to help people become employable,” McMillan said. “We help with everything from preparations for the G.E.D. exam to applying for a job and securing experience for a resume.”
The class is open to youth from 16 to 21 who meet other criteria as well.
“With our young students, we see that communication skills are our biggest weakness,” McMillan said. “Things like telephone skills and proper language for business use is a big issue and we address those all the time. Using eye contact and proper language can be a big barrier in getting a job. We’re doing our part to correct those areas and strengthen those qualities to prepare them for a job interview and holding down a job.”
Some of those same issues will be addressed in the Escambia County School system in the 2013-14 school year.
Superintendent Randall Little said a program has already been developed to be included in the curriculum for the coming year to address weaknesses in being prepared to search for, secure and keep a job.
“As part of the Alabama Department of Education’s plan to include career preparedness in our curriculum, we will be implementing a course of study that will be required for all freshmen in our schools,” Little said. “This is all part of the college and career ready standards that is part of (State Superintendent) Dr. (Tommy) Bice’s Plan 2020 statewide.”
Bice has previously said the Plan 2020 will build on recent gains seen in student achievement by placing greater emphasis on preparation for real world challenges.
Little said those classes to promote that kind of preparedness will be required before an Escambia County student can graduate.
“We are making it mandatory for our freshmen student and will require it of any student who enters our system after the ninth grade,” Little said. “Over the years, we’ve become a lot less formal — even in education. This course work will focus on things like work ethic, resume building, technology and financial compliance. It will cover information a student will need to know in order to apply for a job and keep it.”
Little said a component of the yearlong course will include mock interviews to allow students an opportunity to experience the interview process and strengthen their weakness before sitting down in front of a potential employer.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Little said. “As educators, we are up for the task and will follow through for the success of our students.”
McMillan said students who complete the YWA program will have more than knowledge under their belts, thanks to a partnership with area businesses.
“When we started this program, we saw a lot of weaknesses and began working on them,” McMillan said. “We discovered that the students here were lost when it comes to a resume. Not so much that they didn’t know how to create one, but that they didn’t have anything to put on the resume. They have little or no experience to include on a resume and if they didn’t finish high school or go to college, there was little to put in the education portion of the resume either. We began partnering with some of the businesses who support this program to find something for that resume. Through part-time, temporary positions, those students gained so much. They went through that interview process, got the job, kept the job and learned how to deal with co-workers in a lot of different situations. When the job was done, they had more self-confidence that they could get a job and had something good to put on their resume.”