CLINTON — Iow@Work, formerly Eastern Iowa Job Training, is now offering a new class to help area people learn the skills they need to succeed in the workplace.

Iow@Work offers many services including career planning and counseling, job placement and referrals, labor market information, resource computer access, financial aid assistance and much more.

Workplace Essentials is a new, one-week class that teaches “soft skills,” or a cluster of personality traits, social graces, language proficiency, personal habits, friendliness and optimism that can distinguish a great employee from a medieocre one. Soft skills can complement hard skills, the technical requirements of a job, and employers are looking for people to hire with the ability to communicate well, use critical thinking, handle their emotions and function effectively in the workplace.

“For some people it is the biggest challenge to overcome the lack of those skills,” said Wanda Wyatt-Hardwick, lead supervisor of Iow@Work. “Soft skills are 60 percent of your job. You need to be able to communicate effectively, be a team player and interact with co-workers and your employer.”

Planning for the class started two years ago with a partnership between the Iowa Department of Human Services, the PROMISE JOBS Program, Iowa Workforce Development and Iowa State University Extension. The class is 30 hours of curriculum divided into five units in which each unit builds upon the skills learned in the previous session. The units include information on understanding learning styles, emotional intelligence, positive thinking skills, self-esteem, social awareness, relationship management, problem solving and decision-making skills, reasoning and time management skills as well as communication skills such as listening and networking skills, how to have a positive attitude and resolve conflicts. The class also teaches members to understand the culture of work, including balancing work and family, dependability, having a good work ethic,

stress management, workplace relationship skills, workplace language and other positive workplace behaviors.

“Things that some people take for granted, but some people just don’t have those skills,” said Wyatt-Hardwick. “Soft skills can make or break success in the workplace and sometimes you just don’t pick them up along the way.”

The class is open to participants in Iow@Work programs and is geared toward helping people be fully prepared to re-enter the workforce. Wyatt-Hardwick said the class is a good first step.

“We think it’s definitely a step in the right direction in getting back to work or going to school,” she said. “We want them to be able to leave here and be successful in the workforce.”

Iow@Work Employment and Training Counselor Tami Kuehl is the facilitator of the Workplace Essentials class.

She said the class can teach flexibility, a positive attitude and how to work effectively with others.

“You spend more time with co-workers than you do with your family at home sometimes,” Kuehl said. “We try to coach them in the job-keeping skills that will make the employer recognize them as a worthy employee.”

At the end of the week, class participants said they not only learned what it takes to be a great employee, but they had a lot of fun doing it.

“I came in thinking, ‘Oh, I don’t want to be here, I don’t want to do this,’ but now I’m glad I did. It was awesome,” said participant Anje Findley.

“We learned more about ourselves, how we look at ourselves and the positive qualities employers are looking for,” said class member Tricia Steines.

Everyone in the class said they learned valuable information that will help them succeed at their next job.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a cashier’s job or working in a firm, you still have to have your soft skills to get along with people. It was very educational,” said participant Annabelle Suarez.

Each member of the class is awarded a certificate of completion at the end of the final class, which can be presented to an employer as proof they have the soft skills necessary to work effectively.

Wyatt-Hardwick said she knows area employers will be happy to know that these future employees will not only be able to perform the technical duties of the job, but they have ability to work well in any situation.

“I hope employers will see this training and know they have the skills they need to succeed,” she said.

The class is offered monthly and takes place Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Iow@Work office, 315 Fifth Ave. South. For more information, call Iow@Work at 243-9060.

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