The Rockford Housing Authority Team paid tribute to the Workforce Development Institute Graduates of Class III and the ConnectHome Digital Literacy participants on their special day. There is a good reason these ceremonies are called ‘commencement exercises’. Graduation is not the end; it’s the just beginning for the outstanding individuals of the RHA Workforce Development Institute and ConnectHome.
It is no secret that education has the power to change a life. What is new is the demand for that change by organizations in our community. Businesses are investing more than ever before on educating their workforce, eager for them to compete in the workforce marketplace. The Rockford Housing Authority recognized that need to help and assist our residents to grow and ascertain new opportunities by providing a program called The Workforce Development Institute.
The Workforce Development Institute, through The ROCKFORD HOUSING AUTHORITY’S ‘WDI ROAD TO SUCCESS CURRICULUM’ addresses this skill gap in the workforce with an 8-week, hands-on learning program covering soft skills. The WDI Students gain knowledge in several key areas. They include communication, teamwork, and problem- solving. “I feel like doors are open for me,” graduate Johnny Jones said. “I feel like the way is paved for me. So now I just have to put in the work. I have already been told on what to prepare for and I’m just willing to put in that hard work and now nothing can stop me.”
Our community employers are looking for individuals who can become their leaders. This leadership depends on many of these key soft skills. Over two months, the students learned such things as positive attitude, adaptability, personal ethics, self-esteem, taking direction and accepting feedback. They also learned how to overcome obstacles, problem-solving, emotional intelligence, punctuality and attendance.
Outcomes of Educational Empowerment
This type of Educational empowerment means a lot in everyone’s life as it facilitates learning, knowledge, and skill. It can completely change a mind and personality and helps to attain a positive attitude. We must as a community, give importance to this soft-skill education. It develops confidence and helps build a new personality for the individual who has participated in the WDI Program.
Knowledge gained throughout the WDI educational period enables each and every individual the opportunity to become more confident about their life. It opens various doors to new opportunities of achieving better prospects in life to promote career growth. This soft skill program is targeted to enhance the value of the workplace for many community businesses. It also brings out a feeling of equality among the people in the WDI program and promotes growth and economic development of the community.
Johnny Jones, WDI Graduate
“Attending WDI made me realize the problems at hand that weren’t helping me transform into who I wanted to be. I learned a lot about myself as well as decision-making and critical thinking and where I was stuck in life. WDI taught me a lot about communication, verbal and non-verbal which all are important factors in the workplace. Now I feel I have tools I did not have before WDI. I’m able to make decisions and stick with it without going back. WDI has really benefitted me.”
Tamara Donald, WDI Graduate
“Before I entered the RHA workforce development institute, I couldn’t see past my depression and everything I lost. Not having a home or job kept me down; I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t get a job and continue to beat myself up about my situation. While in class it has lifted my spirits, I learned new skills and refreshed all skills that I have. I have learned what it takes to promote and maintain positivity in the workplace, how to conduct myself in an interview and what employers expect out of their employees.”
A Workforce Ready Community
The Workforce Development Institute, WDI, was created in 2013 with a two-fold purpose to prepare communities as a “workforce ready community” and to promote self-sufficiency. Through communication with local employers, the number one concern is not the employee being able to do the job successfully but rather the employee showing up late, having a bad attitude, dressing inappropriately and not getting along with others on the job. The goal of the WDI curriculum which is to develop a series of outcomes to attain a workforce ready community. This includes the concept of developing a locally-based, job-driven approach to increase earnings and advance employment outcomes through soft skill work readiness.
Damita Taylor Dryden, WDI Graduate
“When I was told about the WDI class I was excited to know that there was a class to help me to get me a career change. Being on the job for 11 years I needed a new start. The information in this class is very useful for someone who is trying to get in the workforce. Highlights for me were the resume building and job fairs, along with resources to start you off in preparing for a job. I know it will get better as I continue to put effort into finishing my goals.”
Dante McAfee, WDI Graduate
“Before I started at WDI, I was just sitting around and not motivated. Not even motivated enough to get outside and do things. I sat at home all day. Ms. Eunice convinced me to sign up for RHA Workforce Development Institute. I learned a lot of things in WDI that will help me to get up and get involved. WDI even helped me to go back to school to earn my high school diploma equivalency. WDI has educated me about what I need to do on the job, how to be successful on the job. WDI helped me to problem solve. I participate more and communicate better. Thank you, RHA.”
Cheri Frykholm, WDI Graduate
“I was a part-time home caregiver. Coming to WDI, I have learned skills which will carry over to a job or possibly a career. With WDI I have developed more confidence in myself.”
Examining the Issue of Soft Skills
A number of universities and research centers have examined the issue of soft skills vs hard skills. They’ve concluded that more than 80 percent of job success comes from well-developed soft skills. The soft skills are the personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. While soft skills can be difficult to quantify or measure, they are no less valuable than hard skills. In fact, many employers look at these skills when they consider hiring or when they consider someone for a promotion.
LinkedIn has determined the soft skills companies need most using a combination of their own data and survey results. The LinkedIn data gathered from over 500+ million members identified the skills that companies were working the hardest to fill. By putting these billions of data points to good use, LinkedIn has created a “roadmap” for job seekers and workplace advancement. Below are the four most desired soft skills that companies need today:
- Time Management
As you have seen, the community challenge for soft skill education is not just about providing access, but also ensuring progress. Together with our community partners, we aim to empower the lives of our clients and resident learners as an ongoing process of continuing classes. According to the Department of Education, thirty-six million adults lack the basic foundational skills to survive any type of middle-skill training jobs. This is due mostly in part by the lack of knowledge and understanding of soft skills. “The Boys & Girls Club of Rockford and Rockford Housing Authority have had a long and successful partnership in serving Rockford’s low and moderate-income families, and in particular, in serving RHA’s public housing residents. The Workforce Development Institute will only help to enhance this partnership and also provide opportunities for residents to gain skills necessary for employment,” states, Cliff Stoner, President & CEO Boys and Girls Club.
Rockford Housing Authority is of the belief that learning how to work cohesively in a group, communicate effectively, and develop interpersonal awareness is necessary to truly be successful in the workplace. Soft skill education is critical to both social and economic development and has a profound impact on our community workforce.
We may think of these returns from soft skill education, such as higher earnings, as subsequent “downstream” benefits of soft skill education which is so very true. As you have seen, there is additional “downstream” benefits that also can be measured by the change in attitudes, perceptions, optimism, new insights and life-changing direction for individuals who attend and graduate the WDI program.
To learn more about the Workforce Development Institute: https://rockfordha.org/resident-services/