When Community of Hope began making plans to open a health center in Ward 8, we asked people in this community what services they need. One of the most common responses? People need help finding jobs. We listened, and began developing our first-ever workforce development curriculum to offer at our new building. Two years later, our Customer Service Skills Certificate Program is going strong, and is open to both our clients and the broader community. To date, 38 individuals have participated in the 10-week course, 45% of whom have secured or maintained employment after graduation.
Graduate Ms. Patricia Owens found this program at just the right time. “One year ago at this time, I was lost,” she said. “I was jobless. I was homeless. I did not know what to do. And then I saw that big old sign that said ‘Community of Hope.’”
Ms. Owens enrolled in our Customer Service Training class, where she learned some of the basic skills needed to get and keep a job, including how to dress and prepare for interviews. One of our community partners, Advisory Board Company, volunteers with the program to stage mock interviews with our participants. There, Ms. Owens learned to research the employer ahead of time and to come to an interview prepared with thoughtful questions.
According to Workforce Development Project Manager, Antoine Johnson, the goal is not only to help participants get a job; it’s to help them keep it. “We want to make great employees for great employers,” he says. The program emphasizes soft skills like professionalism, interaction with supervisors and diplomacy needed to handle everyday workplace challenges. “I definitely didn’t have that,” Ms. Owens said. “The class taught me how to compromise and not sweat over the small stuff.”
In the communities we serve, the barriers to successful employment can be high. Antoine says, “Just the emotional stresses of life” can take a toll on one’s ability to perform well at work. “Some of our participants feel like nothing,” he says, “and it’s our job to say, ‘You are really a whole lot.’”
Just this month, Ms. Owens accepted a full-time job at MedTech coordinating their externship program. She gives credit to Antoine and this program for building the self-confidence and poise she needed to get the job. “I feel like I’m somebody again,” she says.
Our fourth Customer Service Skills class will celebrate its graduation on Saturday, July 26.