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Course helps workers to be their B.E.S.T.

February 20, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

Some have lost a few rungs on the ladder of success and some have fallen off completely, but the 18 students in the B.E.S.T. class hope to start climbing it again when they complete the six-week course at the Franklin County Career and Technology Center.

Half the people at the Basic Employment and Skills Training course said they are employed in full- or part-time jobs. The other half said they worked in the past year, but lost jobs for one reason or another.

About a quarter of those enrolled returned to Franklin County Prison at the conclusion of Monday's three-hour class on time management.

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"Not since last summer," Angela Miller, 23, of Chambersburg said when asked when she last worked. While in jail on a parole violation, she learned about B.E.S.T. through the drug and alcohol treatment staff at the prison, Miller said.

Pam Seibert, 39, of Fayetteville, Pa., got a notice over the fax machine at the business where she once worked. She was an office manager for a construction company for 20 years before it went out of business.

Brad Kirks, 54, of Shippensburg, Pa., spent 10 years with the human resources department of a printing company before he was laid off. He heard about B.E.S.T. through the Franklin County CareerLink job center in Chambersburg.

Students include those with GEDs and some with post-graduate degrees, said Dennis A. Travers, the B.E.S.T. coordinator.

They ranged in age from 20-somethings to grandmothers.

Unemployment in Franklin County was 3.1 percent in December, which means businesses are searching for qualified labor, according to L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp.

Ross said employers are comfortable teaching technical skills on site, but the applicants walking through the door have to have the "soft skills" that enable them to get hired in the first place.

B.E.S.T. was formed by a consortium of businesses, including Target, Summit Health and several manufacturers, who were looking for a reliable labor pool from which to draw, Ross said.

Over the six weeks, the students learn about business communication, teamwork, personal development, health and safety and customer service among other workplace issues, the curriculum shows. The courses are taught by people from consortium companies, including Monday's instructors, Karen Burnstad and Teresa Kable of F&M Trust Co.

The reasons students signed up are as varied as the people themselves. Kirks said it is a good way to network with the companies in the consortium.

"I figured being with one small company for 20 years, I needed to find out what was happening elsewhere," Seibert said.

At 53, Deborah Webster of Shippensburg said her age may be working against her in finding a full-time job with benefits. She hopes the course will "help me understand what employers are looking for and help them."

"It helps you get back into society as a better person,"said Jonathan Eles, 21, of Waynesboro, Pa., an inmate who works by day and attends classes at night.

Ross said the next course will begin March 15. Those wanting more information can call Travers at 267-3679 or Lora Wolfe at 709-4924.

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