Laura Dean Bennett
Albert Einstein once said, “You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”
Smart people have always told us that we have to plan for our future.
Last week, 27 Pocahontas County High School students spent their days planning for successful futures, by attending a seminar focused on just that.
It was titled the “Warriors’ Summer Work Camp,” and it was sponsored by Family Resource Network’s new program, Community Resource Program (CRP), which helps students and adults with job readiness and placement.
The job readiness camp was offered to select Pocahontas County High School students, and the response was gratifying.
There was such a good turnout that there will be an additional camp August 5 – 8 for the students who were unable to get into the first one.
The program was designed to teach students the basics of how to manage personal finances, land a job and conduct themselves in the professional world of work.
These fortunate young people were given the opportunity to glimpse the challenges that lie ahead for them.
In addition to learning how to prepare themselves for successful job interviews, the students also learned proper on-the-job etiquette, how to create a résumé, social media etiquette, personal finance and banking basics, and received West Virginia Welcome training.
FRN Executive Director Laura Young said she had long been looking forward to launching this kind of program and was pleased that it had been “a huge success.”
She explained the premise on which the “job camp” is based.
“You would be hard pressed to find professional skills that matter more than soft skills,” Young said.
“Unlike hard skills, which can be measured, soft skills are intangible and difficult to quantify.
“Examples of soft skills include leadership, teamwork, communication, problem solving, work ethic, flexibility/adaptability and interpersonal skills,” she explained.
“Employers actually care more about soft skills than they do about technical abilities, such as reading comprehension and mathematics.
“Soft skills are key to building relationships and creating opportunities for advancement.
“Our campers were provided a workplace experience and received hands-on training.
“They participated in team building exercises and lessons from the evidence- based “Bring Your A Game” curriculum.
“The Family Resource Network’s new Community Resource Program is quickly becoming my favorite project to mobilize,” she added.
The camp turned out to be not only an educational experience for the kids, but an enjoyable one, as well.
The students took part in lively discussions with each other and with their instructors, and many positive comments were made about the camp.
“It was very educational and we had a lot of fun,” said PCHS rising senior Andrea Rabel. “It helped me to prepare for the workforce and to plan for my future.”
Young and FRN Family Center Director Becky Campbell were joined by FRN’s new Case Manager Kendra Taylor in facilitating the program which included members of the local business community.
Also on board were FRN student mentor Chad Friel and AmeriCorp volunteer Jean Srodes.
The camp instructor was PCHS GED Options Pathway teacher Emily Mc-Laughlin, who, throughout the week, held the students’ total attention while exploring the possibilities of their future in the work force.
During the week, McLaughlin presented the “Bring Your A Game” curriculum, developed by the Center for Work Ethic Development.
She also introduced students to O*NET, an online career exploration and job analysis resource sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Labor Employment and Training Administration.
O*NET directs research into local job opportunities – available jobs in any given area, average wages for that job and how to connect to employment resources.
You can’t absorb a curriculum this challenging and prepare for a successful future on an empty stomach.
That’s where the camp chefs – Sharol Campbell and Lisa Bibb – came in.
They served up delicious lunches – everything from chicken tetrazzini to homemade pepperoni rolls and provided on-the-go sandwiches prepared by the IGA deli.
Tuesday was a field trip day, as students took a comprehensive tour of Snowshoe Resort where they were greeted by Domestic Recruiting SpecialistAlanna Sharp.
Sharp reviewed the various job opportunities at the resort.
The group had lunch at the Foxfire Grille before returning to the Wellness Center in Marlinton for a debriefing session.
The rest of the week featured guest speakers.
Cathy Mosesso, of Mosesso Insurance, spoke with students about the challenges of opening her own business. She also discussed the significance of maintaining a thoughtful presence on social media and guidelines for modern job etiquette.
Josh Rhodes, P.A. with Community Care of Marlinton, told the students how his original career path dramatically changed direction as he pursued his education. He offered insights into college life and spoke with them about the benefits of working in a rural area in the medical field.
Lauren Dunbrack, Customer Service Representative at Pendleton Community Bank, shared important lessons about banking and personal finances with the students.
“I showed them how to open a checking account, write a check, use the check register to balance an account, and gave them basic information about loans, savings accounts and debit cards,” Dunbrack explained.
“I was glad to spend time with the students.
“It’s important that they know how savings and checking accounts work, and how important it is to keep a good credit rating,” she added.
Cara Rose, Executive Director of the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau, presented the “West Virginia Welcome” training on the last day of camp.
Rose explained that the course focuses on the basics of quality customer service.
“I told them that no matter where you work, you are always going to have a customer,” Rose said.
Every student successfully completed the course and received a certificate of completion.
“I had a great time with those kids,” Rose said. “It was an exceptional group of students.” Rose concluded.
Jean Srodes thought the entire program was excellent.
“These youngsters are on the verge of adulthood, and this program was just what they needed,” she said. “It was like job preparation boot camp. And it was run like a well-oiled machine.
“It was a realistic perspective of what prospective employers will expect of them and what life skills they are going to need to succeed,” Srodes added.
After the success of this first summer “work camp,” Laura Young said that the FRN will be looking forward to offering the program every year.
“Clearly our students can benefit from this kind of experience,” Young said.
“It’s crucial that we send them out into the world with as much preparation as possible.
“I find it personally very rewarding to provide support for individuals as they walk through the process of job training and placement.”
“I love to see local people get good jobs in the local community,” she added with a smile.
“It’s a win for everybody.”