Mentor program helping welfare-to-work clients increase skills

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 27, 2001

Workforce Development Inc.

Saturday, January 27, 2001

Workforce Development Inc., formerly known as the Private Industry Council, is putting their money where their mouth is, and using their award-winning employer-based mentoring program to help their own employees get a solid start in the organization.

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The program, funded by a McKnight Foundation grant, was developed about three years ago to help employers reduce turnover and help employees develop their office and job-related skills.

Mentoring has been especially useful for welfare-to-work clients who may not have ever had a job, and don’t know workplace customs and expectations, said Val Kvale mentor coordinator for the Freeborn County.

&uot;I think a lot of our clients haven’t had work, so they don’t understand the relationships,&uot; Kvale said.

A workplace mentor paired with a new employee guides him or her through procedures and protocol, and is available to answer questions, said Gloria Olson, Career Counselor and mentor for Workforce Development, Inc.

&uot;Basically, it’s to always let them know how the agency is run, on policies, on what to expect from management,&uot; Olson said.

Workforce Development, Inc. began using the program in their own offices last summer.

&uot;We got the idea, why not do it ourselves and work some of the bugs out and glean the benefits,&uot; Kvale said. &uot;The formalized arrangement allows us to do more study to see what works and what changes we can make to make it better.&uot;

There are seven current mentor relationships in the entire 10- county program, and nine more employees registered to mentor, Kvale said.

Mentors fill out a list of their knowledge, interests and skills, and the new employee picks the one they feel would work best for them.

Glenna Kristy, the organization’s new bilingual/bicultural nursing assistant instructor/mentor chose her mentor in part because they work in the same office.

&uot;I met Jerry personally, I guess that was one of the things that helped,&uot; Kristy said. &uot;And he was here at the office, I thought that would be convenient.&uot;

Kristy, who started working at Workforce Development, Inc. on Jan. 8, hasn’t formally worked with her mentor yet, but he has helped her navigate office politics.

For example, he explained the way office staff traditionally celebrate each other’s birthdays.

&uot;Little things like that, he just kind of pops in,&uot; Kristy said.

Once they begin their formal mentoring relationship, Kristy and her mentor will review Kristy’s goals and his skills, and sign a mentorship agreement.

&uot;My role will be just to check in with them every three months and act as a go between,&uot; Kvale said.

Kristy likes the arrangement because she knows who to ask if she has any questions about her job.

&uot;You can find out right away instead of siting and stewing about it for days on end,&uot; she said.