Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Deb Pipes can go home at night with a feeling of great accomplishment. She can do that because her job is to help others be successful! Pipes, a licensed social worker, for Minnesota Valley Action Council is the Family Resource Coordinator for Nicollet County. She runs a class called “Work-Wise”. The students must be Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) or Diversionary Work Program (DWP) recipients in order to be referred to the class. They must also be appropriate candidates for a classroom experience.The Work-Wise class is a tool used to jump start people into the workforce. The goal of the class is to encourage and enable folks to find employment and develop life skills so they can become self-sufficient. What a wonderful idea.

Part of the course work of the class includes identifying the skills that people possess. Another objective is to help folks develop goals and create a vision for their future. Tony Lalor, was a student in the class and made the following statement, “my idea of a goal was figuring out how get a 12 pack for the weekend.” Lalor has changed a lot since he took the class. Now, he is fully employed, has moved into leadership positions at his place of employment-Dotson, Inc. and his weekends include participating in triathlons and camping with his family.
A big part of the class is learning how to “sell yourself”. Students are helped to understand how a potential employer evaluates applicants. They learn about understanding job descriptions, and they learn about how to interview. There is practical experience on doing an interview and also opportunity to learn computer skills in a computer lab. The class takes field trips and a recent trip took them to Dotson Inc. in Mankato. At the plant, Harley Goff shared some timely information on strategies for employment.

He advised to make your job application “jump out of the pack”. The ones that come in and have more than "just" the application are separated out. He said, “it is a delicate situation when I make choices about who I am going to interview. If there is an application that by the looks of it-says-pay attention to me! It gets looked at.” Explaining that further, he said to give the employer more information than "just filling in the blanks". “Tell me something that lets me know something about you. Tell me what you understand, how you think, and what you feel. Add something that will draw attention. Beat your own chest with a bragging letter. Do a sales job on yourself and on the business you want wanting to work for. Give your strengths and don't just say that you are a hard worker. Tell or describe something you did that proves you are a hard worker. Explain what you mean by hard worker.”

Goff said that all of us have areas where we need to strive for improvement. He urged applicants to tell about those areas. He said applicants should figure out their weaknesses and then explain how they can counter these weaknesses He said, timing is everything in the job game. Applicants should come prepared with all of the needed information like proof of high school graduation etc. but he also suggested applicants keep their names up front. As a final statement, the comment was made: "If you prepare to be successful in the job search; you will prepare to be successful in your job."

The Work-Wise class runs for 16 weeks and the clients enter at any point and can stay for the full 16 weeks at which time there is a graduation ceremony. Pipes said, “Many leave for jobs and other reasons before they reach the 16 week mark.We do keep outcome information on our clients that attend the class. We have had approximately 125 clients go through the class and most leave and find employment or continue to work on their education goals (GED, short-term training options or go on to 1 or 2 year college programs.”A person only has to visit with Tony Lalor and ask him about his life to see a real live outcome of the class.

I am sure Deb Pipes will agree that the sparkle of Tony’s eyes as he talks with pride about his life and work is the best outcome of all. end


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