Preparing Mississippi’s At-Risk Youth for Tomorrow’s Workforce
To give someone a chance often requires that someone must first take a chance. This is what Jan Farve, Workforce Readiness Director for Mississippi SHRM and then Chapter Secretary of South MS SHRM, did in 2008 when she began charting the course of what is is now known as Skillz Drillz.
Many might assume her Workforce Readiness efforts would only extend to working with those at the college-level as they are closest to joining Corporate America. While Jan does indeed work with colleges, she chose to also focus her efforts on an often-forgotten segment of individuals. This group, at no fault of their own and many times no fault of their parents, were almost surely destined to never realize their potential.
Skillz Drillz, a SHRM Pinnacle Award winning program created by Jan Taylor Farve, CSP, PHR, teaches fundamental skills to Mississippi at-risk youth. The following information is taken from any interview I did with Jan in 2012 to learn more about the program.
Let’s start off easy. When did you begin the program?
Whose idea was Skillz Drillz and who named it?
Since workforce readiness is one of my passions – along with service – the State Council position just seemed to light a fire and ideas just came in regards to how we could better serve our state. I guess it was my brainchild – both in concept and in name. The name Skillz Drillz just seemed to fit when Camp Shelby became involved.
I previously agreed to each the Workability Skills program for the girls at Camp Shelby Youth Challenge, and the relationship started there.
Now, back to Mississippi SHRM and the State Council, how does this tie into Workforce Readiness?
I didn’t go into this unprepared. Before the program was developed, I surveyed employers across the state to see what their basic needs were. Employers in Mississippi rank basic skills as a major culture hurdle in their workforce. This could be work ethic and how workers understand what is it to have great work ethic and how to develop and improve behaviors. These behaviors then tie directly into their overall work behavior and can affect attendance, dependability, willingness and initiative. In the past, there has been a lack of understanding of the concept of “Career Citizen” and we wanted to change that.
How have you shown support to national SHRM and/or MSSHRM?
Ok, on the other hand, what support have you received from national SHRM and/or MSSHRM?
Thanks to SHRM, I utilize the logo and my own SHRM involvement to market and promote the program. Since Workforce Readiness is a priority of SHRM, this gives great credibility. I’ve worked hard to get this project to the point where it is today. It hasn’t been easy but the networking alone from SHRM and MSSHRM connections has been immeasurable! MSSHRM has been beneficial in helping gain access to volunteers and participants in Mississippi.
Let’s back up for a moment and elaborate on an earlier statement. What does it mean to be a “Career Citizen”?
It means be a part of your environment. Be an asset to your organization and not only there for a paycheck.
Some might say that this is a bit unrealistic. In the end, aren’t we all at work to get a paycheck?
Yes, ultimately, that is the common goal we all share. Being a “Career Citizen” doesn’t mean you have to like everything about your job. It means doing more than just showing up. It means taking pride in your work – regardless of what that work might be.
What is the current status of the project?
It is four years old and is going strong. We’re currently serving 56 out of 82 counties.
Any particular counties or are they all across Mississippi?
It’s mostly South and Central MS but we’re currently setting “previews” in counties where school boards and decision are hesitant. The 2012-2013 school year will focus on marketing instead of adding new schools. The public needs to see the program and how successful it is before we can move ahead effectively.
What’s the overall goal of the program?
That could be answered in several ways and might differ depending upon who you ask. A large part of the program is to encourage students to have a desire to plan a career path while seeking ways to succeed at that plan. Surveys show that the students who have completed the program, at a rate of57%, have increased visits to school career counseling, work study programs, internships, and college prep classes.
That’s amazing. So, what are the anticipated “next steps”?
Back to surveys, the drop-out rate in Mississippi is inching upward. We are adding material encouraging the importance of High School completion. The National Guard has shown great interest in taking the program on as their own, or increasing the participation level they currently have. I have traveled to Virginia and DC to present this program to various hierarchy within the Guard.
Want to know more about Skillz Drillz?
Contact Jan Farve at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to view the webcast on the Volunteer Leader’s Resource Center.