Minneapolis job training center seeks to improve employment skills

Minnesota State Roundup

Published October 1, 1992  | October 1992 issue

Faced with a growing shortage of skilled workers in the Twin Cities metro area, Grand Metropolitan PLC, the London-based parent organization of Minneapolis' Pillsbury Co., opened Grand Metropolitan Community Job Training Center in November 1991.

And in view of the program's early successes, in spring Grand Met committed $3 million for operational expenses over the next three years.

More than 60 of the 70 trainees certified by the program have moved on to jobs such as entry-level accounting, assembly, sales, building maintenance, landscaping and customer service.

The downtown Minneapolis non-profit center draws students from the ranks of the unskilled unemployed through social service agencies or through self-referral. The program offers more than 110 hours of training spread over the five to six weeks students spend at the training site.

The curriculum reflects training center general manager Mike Hickey's belief that "human relations are as important as technical skills." In addition to the basics—including computer literacy—students must learn value and skill competencies in appropriate work behavior, career exploration and self-assessment, and job search strategies before they are certified by the program.

The center also customizes its training to meet the needs of both the employer and the prospective employee. The American Institute of Banking and the training center are involved in preliminary planning of customized training for jobs in banking.

The center's activities also go beyond the classroom. "After-care is a critical component of the program," Hickey says. The job center regularly monitors progress with both employers and job center graduates, offering counseling, continued training at the job or, rarely, retraining for another job.

Hickey sees an important part of the job center's role as providing a vehicle for a partnership between the community, business and government in recruitment for entry-level jobs. Hickey counts 50 Twin Cities businesses along with Grand Met that participate in the program. An advisory board that includes US West, Northwest Airlines, First Bank and Ecolab, as well as government and community agencies, contributes to the partnership by "keeping the job center focused and accountable," Hickey says.

In addition to the center's job training program, over 1,000 people have used the community resource room open to all job-seekers. The room is staffed with professional counselors and houses job-related resource material, including computers for researching job openings.

William Flowers