By Christine Bryant
Like most applicants, Marcuse Peterson had no idea the smallest mannerisms could make such a big impact when interviewing for a job.
The Columbus resident had been unemployed since the spring and began looking for ways to gain an edge on other job candidates.
He worked with a job and life skills specialist at the Columbus Metropolitan Library, took a Microsoft Word and Excel class and attended job fairs. He says one course in particular opened his eyes to how he could set himself apart from the rest in an often crowded applicant pool.
“I sat in a class on how to prepare myself for a job interview,” he said. “I learned a lot. (The course organizers) got a suit for me, they motivated me and got my resume set up where I can go in confident and present myself to the company – not sell myself, but present myself.”
The class is just one part of a new workforce readiness program that supports the Franklinton and Hilltop communities in demonstrating early success. The collaboration between Columbus Metropolitan Library and CoverMyMeds launched in July and is available at no cost at the library’s Hilltop and Franklinton branches.
The program offers adults in neighborhoods where unemployment rates are as high as 7.9 percent an opportunity to learn, grow and gain skills that translate into workplace readiness and real-world success.
“When they announced their plan to build a new campus in Franklinton, CoverMyMeds approached us with the desire to uplift the community,” said Alison Circle, chief customer experience officer at Columbus Metropolitan Library. “Together we created a concept: a new program of free classes at our Franklinton and Hilltop branches designed to upskill jobseekers, particularly around technology skills.”
For Peterson, in particular, among the skills he gained were how simple actions like eye contact and going into an interview with a prepared strategy could work in his favor.
“I did a couple of things before I went in. I used a mirror to practice and make sure I was making eye contact and to get myself motivated and ready,” he said. “They also taught me to write down questions for the interview, and (the interviewers) really liked that.”
So far, seven participants have secured quality careers within months of completing training, including Peterson, who will start a new job as a tool shed maintenance technician at Mars Petcare at the beginning of January.
Circle says the workforce readiness program focuses on the skills that make job candidates desirable to employers.
“They cover everything from technology and computer skills to interviewing and resume writing and working as part of a team,” she said. “We believe that the more classes you attend, the better your outcome will be.”
The program also has partnered with Goodwill and Jewish Family Services to deliver training on the soft skills of the workplace, such as how to communicate, workplace expectations and career planning.
In addition to helping develop the curriculum to include a focus on technology, CoverMyMeds employees are supporting participants through mock job interviews and resume coaching.
“The interest and drive we’ve seen so far from CoverMyMeds employees has been incredible, and that’s critical for the lasting success of our collaboration with the library to support the community,” said Kate Bauer, community engagement manager at CoverMyMeds.
A CoverMyMeds team member recently joined the Westside Workforce Program Advisory Committee as well, she said.
The goal of the program, Circle says, is to expand to include additional partners and help address a larger issue in the community.
“We see this project as an incubation of a bigger idea that we hope to take to many of our other locations and entice other businesses to support in other communities,” she said.
“Ultimately, our goal is a well-trained workforce who earn a living wage.”
Also among the seven who have secured jobs is Peterson’s wife, Jennifer, who attended workplace technology classes and received soft skills training and coaching through the workplace readiness program.
For the Petersons, securing employment has changed many areas of their lives. Though they had been living in a shelter for a year, they now have the stability they needed to move forward in their lives.
“Now I have a great job, a home,” Peterson said. “It just turned out great, and I met great people through it. Don’t ever think you can’t do something. I walked past that class four times before I finally said I was going to go in there. It has opened a lot of new doors that before weren’t open.”
Those who are interested in participating in the workforce readiness program can visit the library’s Hilltop or Franklinton branches and ask a staff member for more information.
Interested individuals also can contact Jon Mullineaux at (614) 849-1027. No registration is required.