McLennan Community College and area partners are working to develop a certificate that will unify community training programs teaching basic job skills to help the workforce.
Multiple nonprofit agencies in the community offer classes teaching basic workforce skills, but the courses aren’t uniform and don’t offer employees the chance to prove to employers they know the basic skills, said Matthew Polk, Prosper Waco executive director.
That’s where MCC stepped in.
Frank Graves, MCC dean of workforce and public service, said every business in the community wants good employees, and there’s already a national workforce readiness program to model a local program after.
Officials are in the early stages but pushing forward to create a central curriculum that could be taught at all the organizations in town that offer workforce classes, Graves said. Students could then take a test and, if they pass, receive a certificate to present along with their résumé when applying for jobs. The certificate would give them some credit with employers and make them more marketable, he said.
Graves said the group developing the curriculum will work with area employers to decide what skills to include.
The biggest challenge to attracting new business into the community and for local companies to expand is labor force, Kris Collins, Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce senior vice president for economic development, recently told McLennan County commissioners.
But, she said, it’s a problem nationwide and not specific to McLennan County.
“Right now we’re sitting at a 4.1 percent unemployment rate,” Collins said. “Some employers have mentioned that the level of quality applicants isn’t always as consistent as it has been in the past.”
There are several Prosper Waco initiatives aimed at improving basic skill sets for work, including teaching the importance of arriving to work on time, wearing appropriate attire and understanding conflict resolution, among others, Collins said.
“I think it’s a positive step forward that we have so many people focused on it, and we’re coming up with local solutions to meet the needs of our different employers,” she said. “We’re not just sitting on our laurels. We’re making stuff happen.”
Polk said the idea is to connect already existing resources to make the efforts more effective.
“The conversation was how to put that all together in a way that works better for everybody,” he said. “If we could develop something everyone in the community understood what it meant, and what the value was, and what was involved in earning a certificate. . . . That could be a way to bridge that gap.
“Frank (Graves) is really creative and obviously really interested in doing things that work for the community. He was all about trying to see what MCC could do to make this happen.”