Get in on ground floor to learn workforce skills with WIA

In the coming months, there are several industries and business that will be setting up shop in Chester County. Young people without a high school diploma or a GED may be wondering how they can get in on the ground floor and get a job with these industries, and the answer might be to, literally, get in on the ground floor – of the Chester County Library building, that is.
There on the back side of the library they will find the Rescare WIA (Workforce Investment Act) offices and classrooms, and WIA has a youth program to prepare those young people, said program manager Carolyn Dixon and instructor Amanda Baker.
“We have been here for two years, and we wanted to let the community know we are offering these certificate programs. We have the NRFF (National Retail Federation Foundation) certificate, which is customer service training, we offer Serve Safe certification, which is safe food handling and we offer Green Clean Technician certification, which is training in environmentally safe cleaning,” Dixon said.
Applicants for the Youth Programs can be between the ages of 17 and 21, high school dropouts, pregnant or parenting and living in an household with limited income and interested in furthering their education and gaining employment. Applicants are served in both Chester and Lancaster counties.
“The customer service certificate gives the applicant a three-year certification, and it can be renewed after that, so it’s something they can use to build a retail career in places like Belk’s or Goody’s,” added Baker.
Applicants who fit the age group and already have a high school diploma are also eligible for the program, and in the case of the customer service certificate, it might help them get a job, said Baker.
She explained the customer service course teaches applicants practical lessons, such as how to handle difficult customers, how to compute the different rebates and refunds that a retail business might offer and how to interact with people, and going over and above to provide top-notch customer service.
The customer service lessons are a mix of computerized learning and some classroom role-playing of different situations, said Baker.
The Youth Program is recruiting for the new school year, said Dixon and Baker.
“We had a great year last year, we had 75 participants in the program. For the GED, we partner with Chester County Adult Ed. We have a program called Rescare GED Academy that gives extra tutorial help on the computer,” said Baker. The Youth Program also offers WorkKeys workplace readiness certification.
To encourage success at many levels, the WIA Youth Program offers several incentives.
“We offer gift cards whenever the participants accomplish a goal. At the beginning of the program, we give a test called a TABE (Test of Adult Basic Education) test. It’s just basic reading and math, and we work with them to see what their level is. When they increase that to a ninth grade level or above, they receive an incentive. When they receive their GED, they get a $50 gift card incentive and when they complete a post-secondary education certificate (like the customer service, food service or Green Clean certification, they receive a $50 incentive,” said Baker.
The program makes it as easy as possible for someone, especially young parents, to attend. The program reimburses the participant a certain amount per day for childcare expenses, so they can attend the classes. If participants live more than five miles from the training center, there are transportation reimbursements as well.
“We also offer a program called My Place, which is a life skills training course. We start that off when they come into the program. We talk about budgeting, we talk about childcare, transportation, how to handle yourself with an employer, how to write a resume, all those sort of soft skills,” Baker said.
Dixon and Baker said they want the community to know the Youth Program is here to help out the youth in preparing for these jobs that will be appearing over the next several months and years.
The first step to get in on the ground floor, is to go in on the ground floor of the library and see what the Rescare WIA Youth Program has to offer. Orientation sessions are held every Monday and Wednesday at 10 a.m. in Chester and on Tuesdays at the Lancaster Adult Ed offices. To find out more, call 803-385-1179, or in Lancaster County, 803-285-7660.

By Brian Garner, Staff Reporter with The News & Reporter