On this podcast, Deanna Smith, with the Investment Center at CBC Bank, and Kristin Hanna from the Boys and Girls Club of Valdosta (BGV) discuss how a Leadership Lowndes (LL) class project created a successful workforce training program.
In 2019, LL members met with representatives from the BGV to develop the Academy for Success (AFS), an eight-week program emphasizing the development of soft skills, a vital part of an employee's work performance.
After modifying a purchased curriculum, LL members and the BGV staff created the AFS program focused on helping students get a job and retain a job.
During the job-seeking portion, students learn how to complete an application, improve communication skills, and understand the importance of an excellent social media presence.
"The third class is a lot of fun--it's dressing for success," said Smith, which includes a "what not to wear" fashion show with local business leaders demonstrating inappropriate interview and work clothing.
"This day is fun, and it changes the relationships so much," Hanna said. "These very professional, polished adults are suddenly walking in some pretty wacky clothes. I think it breaks down a lot of barriers."
The program also teaches some "lost art" skills, like the proper way to give a handshake.
"We will stand in the corner of the room and have the kids come around and introduce themselves," Smith explained. "Then we give immediate feedback, and [the students] move to the next person. We try to solidify that feedback so they can improve each time."
Smith said during the interview class, students practice answering common questions before participating in formal mock interviews, where local business leaders conduct five-minute mock interviews and provide feedback.
During the "retaining a job" portion, students learn valuable employability skills, from respecting authority to how to deal with workplace challenges.
Smith said the program also teaches networking and conversation, along with basic etiquette, including table manners.
"We are prepping them for the last week when we put it all together," said Smith, noting that the final class is a paparazzi-style event.
The highlight of the class is the graduation ceremony. Students are transported to a local restaurant via limousine and walk the red carpet as government officials and business leaders cheer them on.
Once inside, the students dine with government and business leaders and engage in conversations that build relationships while practicing their newly learned communication skills.
Each year, the AFS is offered in the spring or fall, and students apply to participate.
Hanna said the program has been successful in helping BGV students find and keep employment.
Volunteers and corporate sponsors are needed to sustain the program's growth. Business leaders interested in participating can email Smith at email@example.com or Hanna at firstname.lastname@example.org.