Help is on the way

Jobs are hard-won prizes, but the graduates of the Clark County Skills Center Legal/Medical Office program made a clean sweep

Consider yourself lucky if you have a 2005 graduate from the Clark County Skills Center Legal/Medical Office program working at your shop – from what I hear, you are a pretty big group.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but this summer, students of the Legal/Medical Office program have been permanently hired at businesses throughout Clark County, most of them having completed successful internships at the businesses before being hired on. These businesses include The Law Firm of Grant Gehrman, Washington Mutual, Burgerville, Family Physicians, Choice Equity, Anderson Personnel Services, Personnel Express, Miller Nash, LLP, Attorneys at Law, Escape Body Therapy, Davis Chriopractic, Chicago Title, Vancouver Eye Clinic, Fergusen and Schoenfeld and Comfort Dental.

Late last spring I was approached by instructor Leslie Hinton to be one of two keynote speakers at the students’ graduation. Being somewhat new to the region, and slowly familiarizing myself with the workforce development options Southwest Washington has to offer, I had no idea what to expect – but I found I had a lot of preconceived notions. The terms “alternative school” and “problem cases” came to mind, as well as “drop-outs” and “remedial.”

When you have a lot of assumptions about something, I learned, the easier it is to blow them out of the water.

I spent the better part of an hour grilling Ms. Hinton on her students, the program itself and reasons students would attend. Turns out, the program is highly competitive, and most students attend while also attending high schools in other parts of town. A lot of these students’ time is spent in transit, not to mention at internships and in study. The students in this class all happen to be female – the program is not exclusively for women, but it does attract many young women. Far and away, they are Eastern European, family-oriented, deeply rooted in their religious live, and highly accomplished students.

These students are not at the Skills Center because they cannot attend college. They are there because they competed and got in, and because, above all, these women want to work.

In his column on page 22 of the Workforce Development focus section, State Apprenticeship Coordinator Ed Madden talks about the implication in the marketplace that people who haven’t graduated from college or a university have little to contribute in a significant way to the economy or, more specifically, to their employer’s needs. On-the-job learners, it is thought, have less ambition and are less likely to succeed at their chosen profession. This may be a perception, cultivated in large part by academic systems, but each of us has personal experience to the contrary.

And studies tell us that a combination of learning in an academic setting and on-the-job training produces the most effective workers and learners, as it the practical application of such conceptual topics as math, physics and English that drives them home.

In “Help Wanted” on page 18, we learn the top sectors for job growth include automobile technology, construction, healthcare, transportation and advanced manufacturing. These are areas that require apprenticeships and on-the-job training. Would you want to buy a home from a builder that only had book-learnin’?

An internship is a win-win for the employer. You hire a temporary employee with specific training at little or no cost, train them to do work they way it fits your company, and evaluate their performance and “hireability” – all of this with no obligation to hire them on. The amazing thing about the young women of the Class of 2005 Legal/Medical Office program, is that the vast majority of them were hired by the businesses that took them on as interns.

Since I obviously didn’t need to motivate these young women to get out in the workforce or study to get into college, in my speech, I implored them to become role models and mentors. Too late–now that I think about it – they already are.

Comments

comments