Collaborating for Success: A Dislocated Worker Training Model
March 2010, Volume 5, Number 3
Central Lakes College (CLC) and Rural Minnesota Concentrated Employment Program (RMCEP), in Brainerd and Staples, Minnesota, were recently recognized at the National 2010 Careers Conference, in Madison, Wisconsin, for their development of an innovative, collaborative model for training dislocated workers. The training delivery model exemplifies effective collaboration among numerous workforce and economic development agencies, as evidenced by the Showcase Program Award presented to Rebecca Best, dean of Workforce, Economic, and Regional Development at CLC, and Craig Nathan, operations manager, RMCEP.
In response to the economic downturn and growing number of dislocated workers, President Larry Lundblad, Central Lakes College, convened a planning group during the fall of 2008. Participants included Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), RMCEP, and regional economic development partners. The group identified ways to work together to help dislocated workers in the region by providing access to full-time academic programs, and also discussed the need to develop short-term training options. Based on employment and job data statistics from DEED and the direction given by the planning team, short-term training program options were identified and targeted for development.
Two short-term, noncredit training programs were delivered during the spring, summer, and early fall of 2009: Administrative Office Management, and Renewable Energy and Retro Green Construction. Both programs were designed to provide training for enhancing entry level employment opportunities. Robert Hanson, CLC customized training representative, worked closely with industry subject matter experts on all aspects of the project, including the design and development of the curriculum. According to Hanson, “Collaboration was the key to the successful delivery of the program. The content direction of the courses came directly from industry experts.” Industry advisory groups were also convened to review and finalize all curricula. Both programs included a significant essential work skills/soft skills component, along with hands-on technical skills training. A number of industry experts were hired as adjunct instructors to provide the technical training. Students were also given the opportunity to visit actual work sites for some of the hands-on training in the Renewable Energy and Retro Green Construction Program.
RMCEP selected the trainees for the programs through its established process and provided ongoing support and encouragement to trainees. RMCEP also provided per-person training funding to CLC for each eligible participant. CLC worked with CEP to schedule training to meet learner needs and to assure adequate numbers of trainees to run the classes.
The project involved a high level of client/student services. A number of the trainees were under extreme stress and dealing with a variety of personal issues. A few trainees had gone through multiple layoffs due to plant closures and were struggling on a very personal level. Personnel from both CLC and RMCEP worked hard every day to help foster a spirit of hope for the future in each trainee, despite the uncertainty of employment due to the economy. This serious challenge was intensified by a bleak short-term employment outlook in the region. Nathan pointed out, “It may be a while before we see any growth in employment and the occupations targeted through the training efforts. However, on a more positive note, when the expansion does eventually happen, we will have a more highly trained workforce that will be able to adapt to the ever-changing times.” Although trainees knew that economic conditions meant employment may not be available to them immediately following the training, they also realized they were gaining valuable work skills that would enhance their future employability.
Challenges occurred, but problems were solved through effective teamwork between CLC and RMCEP. Staff from both organizations were in close contact with one another, frequently multiple times a day. Timely and accurate communication was essential to providing trainees with a high level of customer service during a very stressful and unsettling time in their lives. According to President Lundblad, “This initiative shows what can take place when partners can come together quickly to respond to the needs of the region. We all learned that in addition to providing the opportunity to acquire skills, addressing the emotional needs of the participants is an important component during stressful times.”
Unprecedented economic times necessitated collaboration at an unprecedented level. The commitment and hard work of personnel from both CLC and RMCEP was necessary to successfully complete the training programs. As a result of this project, working relationships are closer than ever before among staff from both organizations, and a strong spirit of collaboration will continue into the future.
For more information, please contact Rebecca A. Best, dean of Workforce and Economic Development, Central Lakes College, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Top photo: Receiving award at the 2010 Careers Conference in Madison, Wisconsin. L-R: Customized Training Representative Robert Hanson and Dean of Workforce, Economic and Regional Development Rebecca Best, Central Lakes College; and Center Operations Manager Craig Nathan, Rural Minnesota Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. Photo contributed by Senior Outreach Specialist Carol Edds, Center on Education and Work, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Bottom photo: Instructor Jason Edens (left) and students in the Introduction to Solar class. Photo contributed by Jason Edens.