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Not Quite Ready

For Workforce Ready

Several years ago our clients started telling us stories that seemed shocking at the time. Stories about people wearing cutoff shorts, or vaping, or texting during job interviews; showing up late on their first days of work, or leaving after the first lunch break.

Employers had stopped doing drug testing because they would have no one to hire if they did. All of this, sadly, barely raises eyebrows anymore. At CITEC we wondered what we could do about it. Could we train people to be “workforce ready?” And if so, would it make a difference to them or the companies who hire them? Would it reduce turnover and set people on a path to earn more money? Our clients told us they would be on board to try it out, but were not willing to invest in paying for it. 

In 2021 the Arconic Foundation was willing to fund an experiment. We would develop a training module and deliver it to 100 new hires at various businesses across the region, and then compare the turnover rates to cohorts who had not received the training. The goal was a 50 percent improvement in retention after six months. 

Business Advisor Sharon Van Auken developed the program to cover general workplace expectations including proper work attire, respect for company property, and cell-phone use policies, as well as effective problem solving, communication skills, time management, conflict resolution and more in a full-day interactive program, which could also be broken up and delivered virtually. While many companies thought the program would be helpful, few found themselves in a position to participate. Either they could not spare the time for the people to be away from their plants, or they did not want to invest in brand-new hires in this way.

In response, we shortened the program to a half-day. It took two years before we had reached the milestone of training 100 participants, and it was nearly impossible to collect the follow-up data because the participating companies were struggling with workforce shortages in their HR offices as well as on shop floors. The feedback we did receive was positive, but there was not enough data to make any quantitative claims. 

Still one of the organizations trained through the program, The ARC of Clinton County, has decided to continue offering the Workforce Readiness program on an ongoing basis for their new hires. This development confirmed our belief that there is a need for this type of training, and we are pleased that all of the participating companies expressed a benefit at the time of training. To have the ARC continue with this program, without the benefit of funding, is proof to us that the program has demonstrated value.