Last week I was helping a workforce development company put together a proposal for a Federal Grant to train service reps for call centers. I find the program commendable and thought I'd write about it. The grant in question was the Pathways Out of Poverty program offered by the Department of Labor under the 2009 Recovery Act. The grant is targeted at low-income families entering new careers. There's approximately $150 million available for local and national programs.
Applicants get paid to go through training, get real work experience in an in-house call center, and enter the workforce through an apprenticeship programs. It's rather a remarkable program in many ways. Students are coached and mentored at every step in the program.
The company I'm working with has a curriculum made up of five job-specific industry certifications for call center representatives. The programs are provided by Impact learning Systems and the certifications issued by the Service & Support Professional Association. The student starts with basics skills in customer service, email, and cross-selling.
The students then move into a real call center handling calls about renewable energy and green power initiatives. This work experience is part of their training and is managed by the workforce development company. Providing students a safe environment to change their behavior is an essential step in their eventual success. They move on to advanced courses in customer service and sales to increase their confidence and prepare them for jobs in more challenging environments.
The final stage is an apprenticeship program managed by the company that wants to hire them. This is a great opportunity for the student and the company. The student gets the benefit of experience with a mentor and coach, as well as a real pay check. The sponsoring company gets the opportunity to evaluate the student before committing to hiring them. It works for both sides.
As the administration spends tax payer money to get people into the workforce again, this type of program provides a high value. Good employees don't just materialize, they need to be created. This program does just that in a high-touch environment that helps students change their behavior to fit the corporate environments. This program and others like it can be a model for trade schools throughout the country.