During good times and bad, employers are always looking for employees who have the skills, attitudes and work habits that help companies or agencies rise to the top.
Becky Guthrie (standing), talks with Jarod Bates, 17, and Fantasia Paschal, 15, about workplace safety, which is the topic of a training video the youths watched Wednesday afternoon. (Baker City Herald/Ed Merriman)
At the Oregon Worksource Center in Baker City, Eric Labonte and Becky Guthrie help workers hone skills ranging from resumé writing and interviewing to computer programs, customer service, math, work safety practices and others needed to land the right job when the opportunity arises.
Guthrie is a youth case manager worksource development specialist at the Worksource Center at 1575 Dewey Ave. in Baker City (across the street from the David J. Wheeler Federal Building).
“I help kids develop job skills. I help them stay in school and I help them bring their grades up so they will be hireable and college-ready,” Guthrie said.
On Wednesday afternoon, Guthrie and Labonte, a worksource development supervisor with the Training Employment Consortium, were busy helping four teenagers participating in the youth job development program.
While Guthrie worked with Jarod Bates, 17, and Fantasia Paschal, 15, on a workplace safety training video, Labonte helped Brad Woods, 17, and Mike Thomas, 17, maneuver through Internet job searches.
“The kids start out with nothing and end up with portfolios, resumés and skills they will use the rest of their lives,” Guthrie said.
For instance, students learn to put together portfolios containing information about their school and volunteer activities, work history and other information that helps employers assess their skills and how well suited they may be for a particular job, Guthrie said.
Paschal said the training has already helped her land her first “real job” — as a hostess at Jimmy Chan’s.
The youths learn to write cover letters, participate in mock interviews, how to investigate different careers and what the education and skill requirements are for the jobs they are interested in both in the short term and in the long term, Guthrie said.
Federal and state grants available through the Workforce Investment Act pay for part of the youth training program, including money to reimburse businesses or government agencies that provide on-the-job training to youths.
“We’ve had lots of private employers and government agencies, including the Forest Service, Baker County, State Parks and others partner with us,” Guthrie said.
The youth program is one example of the wide variety of training and other assistance Guthrie, Labonte and other staffers do to help workers get what Debbie Gargalis, manager of the Oregon Worksource offices in Baker City, La Grande and Enterprise, calls “job ready.”
“The youth program gives them the work experience they need for the next step,” Gargalis said.
She said she’s seen youths progress from entry level jobs at fast food restaurants to skilled professions in the construction and manufacturing sectors, government and retail sectors here in Baker City.
For some, Gargalis said the progressions goes from worksource job training to technical classes to advanced training at community colleges or universities.
She said anyone, regardless of age, whether they are employed or unemployed, can visit the Oregon Worksource office in Baker City to participate in training classes, watch job training videos or use the self-paced computer training programs,
“We have a lot of self-paced training programs on workplace safety, employer expectations, sexual harassment in the workplace,” Labonte said.
Video training programs range from an outstanding receptionist series to a proof-reading, editing, bookkeeping and others, Labonte said.
Computer training programs available in the training center the latest versions of Microsoft Office and Quick Books Pro, Excel, Access and others that employers often want workers to be proficient in, he said.
The staff at Oregon Worksource also provides training in coping skills, such as budgeting to get by on reduced income.
In addition to using a time of unemployment to engage in some job training to hone skills or prepare for a change in occupations, Gargalis said it’s important for people to keep a positive, “I believe” attitude, to accept the situation and to use the time to set career goals and plan how they are going to accomplish those goals.
While some employers in the current economic downturn are laying off workers, most are holding steady, and some employers see it as an opportunity to latch onto good employees who in better times may not be available.