Pic blackboard-953158_640As a workforce development professional, it’s really tough to observe individuals struggling with job readiness training and with learning new life skills, especially when you know just a little training could have a dramatic impact on their job performance. Fortunately, there are classes and workshops that can help these workers become much more successful, both at finding and at keeping a job. Unfortunately, many don’t take advantage of these classes. My research and interviews with others in the field have not yielded any concrete reasons or universal solutions to the phenomenon. However, as a trainer, I have to be in tune with what has the potential  to work best for the participants. After all, if they don’t take advantage of what is offered, then that is a lost opportunity for making a difference in someone’s life.

What I see is that, time and again, the very mention of the word classes seems to bring up a very negative picture for some individuals. You may have observed this as well.  The concept of continual learning is not even a consideration. They consider themselves finished with any type of schooling and are not willing to participate in a classroom environment where they may be called on to answer questions or in some way speak in a group setting. The uneasiness they felt in the traditional classroom lingers. Consequently, I make it a point to let participants know that they will not be put on the spot and my experience leads me to believe that approach may work for other trainers, as well.

I also offer participants an opportunity to meet with me one on one, after classes are over, so that they can take advantage of mock interviews or review resumés, something they may have been reluctant to do in the classroom setting.

Experience has taught me that many potential participants may also be reluctant to take advantage of training because they have the “same old movie” playing in their heads and they feel that past practices, teachings and learning experiences are just a part of the all too familiar script. It is my goal to create “aha” moments and change the script to one of success by helping the participants see what they already have to offer. The resumé is extremely useful for this exercise. Regardless of how limited the skill sets may appear to be, there is always something there that can be used as a building block. I make it a priority to discover what that is.

Today’s workforce development professional must have patience and compassion. You can only offer training, with the hopes of changing mindsets and past practices. Ultimately, it is up to the participants to take advantage of what you offer and to make the necessary changes in their lives. Time and again, I have thought participants weren’t listening in class but they later take me up on an offer to review their resumé or to participate in a mock interview. Those surprises are always the best.

This is just a little encouragement for workforce development professionals if you become discouraged about participants taking advantage of the skills and life lessons you can provide. Just realize that those who do take advantage of your expertise can have their lives changed. In fact, you can make a legacy change and potentially break a generational cycle of underemployment or unemployment. In other words, perseverance in your profession and the training you offer can make a lasting impact that goes beyond the present day accomplishment. I encourage you, just as I encourage my participants, to “Think big picture; think lasting change!”