Sikeston program teaches basic workforce skills to teens

Monday, June 18, 2012
Sikeston City Councilman Mike Bohannon speaks during the Basic Skills Program for Employees class Thursday at the Sikeston Career and Technology Center. (David Jenkins ~ Standard Democrat)

SIKESTON, Mo. -- When they first arrived as students, the Sikeston School District worked to ease their transition into the rigors of education. First came kindergarten, then elementary school onto junior high school and, finally, high school.

Now teenagers, Sikeston public schools and others are trying to ease their transition into the working world.

Twenty-three Sikeston teenagers are among the first to take part in the Basic Skills Program for Employees. Thursday was the first class, which was made possible through a partnership with the Sikeston Department of Economic Development, local industry leaders, Sikeston School District and the Sikeston Career and Technology Center.

The series of classes is a result of discussions last fall among city leaders, the DED and some of the town's largest employers. Sikeston officials had a question for the businessmen: What is it we can do to help your company succeed?

Industry officials expressed concerns about the high turnover of employees. Many workers, they said, weren't prepared for the responsibilities of the working world.

Together local leaders developed the Basic Skills Program for Employees.

"The goal is to teach current employees and the future workforce basic skills needed to get a job and to stay employed," said Ed Dust, director of Sikeston DED.

The program offered a six-week program this spring, Dust said, that began by matching up newly hired employees at local companies with a mentor -- an experienced employee from another company. Industry leaders would teach the classes and the mentor would follow up, keeping track of the new employee's progress, offering advice and, when needed, providing assistance.

Class topics ranged from work expectations and goal setting to money management and conflict resolution in the work place. The paired new hires and experienced workers were encouraged to communicate at least once a week.

"The first class was very successful," Dust said.

City Councilman Mike Bohannon agreed, adding it even exceeded his expectations.

"People opened up and communicated," he said. "They had somebody who has been employed help them over the different hurdles they faced when they started a job."

This summer it is being offered to the 23 teenagers who are employed through the city of Sikeston's mowing program.

Participants who are ages 16 to 18 are taking part in specially-tailored sessions. Topics covered include how to put together a resume, work expectations and the reasons behind them, and how their success plays not only a role in their employer's success but also in the success of the community.

They will learn about filling out job applications and even take part in mock job interviews. Money management and paycheck deductions will be another topic.

Bohannon said he sees the class as assisting young people in finding a direction in their lives. He said not everyone knows if they want to go to college or into the military or even embark on a certain career when they reach their senior year of high school.

Mike Tomaszewski, factory manager with Tetra Pak, participated in the initial program along with six employees who worked as mentors and three new hires who took part. For the current program the six original mentors are again investing their time along with two more.

He said he and his employees see the value in the program, particularly for young people.

"This can be a great program for high school kids to gain good work habits to become good employees and to keep their job," he said.

Like Tomaszewski, Kent Gibbs with the Sikeston School District sees the program giving Sikeston teens an edge. The program can also give the community an edge by providing a pool of qualified employees, he said.

Pertinent address:

Sikeston, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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