Employers learn how to find B.E.S.T. workers

Neighborhood Initiatives coordinator Cheryl Lyn Higgins talks to local employers at a luncheon Thursday at the Neighbor to Neighbor center in downtown Concordia.

Local employers learned Thursday about a new program that may help them provide free training to their workers and allow workers to learn basic skills to become better employees.

The details of “Basic Employability Skills Training” — or B.E.S.T. — were unveiled at a luncheon hosted at Neighbor to Neighbor in downtown Concordia and presented by Neighborhood Initiatives Inc., a new office of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

“This is about allowing your employees to get better, and about finding people who have the basic skills you need,” said Cheryl Lyn Higgins, coordinator for Neighborhood Initiatives and the organizer of the lunch.

Higgins was instrumental in creating B.E.S.T. when she was president and CEO of the Junction City Area Chamber of Commerce. As the Iraq War began in 2003, that area was preparing for a massive influx of people with the return of the 1st Infantry Division headquarters to Fort Riley in 2006.

An estimated 33,000 people were expected to move to the Junction City/Wamego/Manhattan area, and that population boom drove quick economic expansion that meant countless new jobs. But, Higgins said, “We had more jobs than qualified people.”

The state Department of Commerce and local chambers of commerce were recruiting workers from other areas, but, Higgins said, “We realized we needed to raise the basic skills of the people already here.”

Faced with that challenge, a group from the state and the local chambers — including Higgins — developed B.E.S.T., which she calls “a patchwork of other programs and ideas that business said worked for them.”

B.E.S.T. is a series of eight classes that cover everything from punctuality and dependability to customer service and workplace ethics. Classes are generally about an hour to an hour and a half long, and participants receive a certificate of completion for each class.

Thursday’s lunch was designed to gauge local interest in offering B.E.S.T. classes for current employees or potential workers.

“Another carrot the Department of Commerce is offering if we can generate enough interest,” Higgins told the group, “is to bring their big mobile unit here,” which would help employers connect with workers seeking jobs and help job-seekers with skills like writing resumés and filling out applications. The mobile unit would be parked at Cloud County Community College, to work in conjunction with the Career Center there.

Judging by the comments and questions at Thursday’s lunch, there should be enough interest. Participants from OCCK Inc. said they believe the training could be very beneficial for their clients, while several employers said the completion certificates could be a valuable tool in screening potential workers.

Employers who would like more information may contact Higgins at 243-2113, ext. 1215, or at clhiggins@csjkansas.org

Higgins said this program is one of many she hopes Neighborhood Initiatives will be able to offer. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia created her office in January, she said, “because we are looking for ways to serve the communities in which our sisters live and minister.”

Higgins is also working on community projects in Ellis, Kan., Grand Junction, Colo., and El Paso, Texas, with Sisters of St. Joseph there. The local congregation has about 140 members, with about half of those living in Concordia. Others live and serve in 10 states and in Brazil.

3 thoughts on “Employers learn how to find B.E.S.T. workers

  • May 25, 2011 at 6:08 am

    Creating and maintaining quality skill sets for employees only enhances one’s well-being: independence, choices, and options. When one’s well-being is enhanced, the civic community is also strengthened.

  • May 19, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    I like the idea and the potential, especially for new job entry, that do not know how to begin search, Thanks much S.anne

  • May 19, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Cheryl Lyn,
    Congratulations on a stellar presentation for employer and employee opportunities in the work place.
    Thanks, too, to Sarah for getting the information about the presentation on the website so quickly!!
    Good job!
    Sr. Beth

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