A celebration was held at the MDI facility in Hibbing on Friday, July 14, to recognize nine MDI employees for their completion of Work Skills 101, an in-house training program developed and launched by MDI in April 2017. The celebration was for the second group of MDI employees to graduate the six-week, 13 session workforce development program.
"These individuals worked very hard during the Work Skills 101 program and spent time getting to know both themselves and their co-workers better," said Paula Frings, Owner/CEO of Maven Perspectives, who helped develop the curriculum and facilitates the sessions. "They were asked to answer tough questions such as 'Am I providing an honest day's work at my job at MDI?' and 'What is my vision of working in the community?' They also learned about important topics such as a proper handshake, self-discipline, personality types, and health and safety."
The primary goal of Work Skills 101 is to provide an opportunity for MDI employees to grow both personally and professionally. Secondary goals include helping MDI increase the skill level and productivity of employees and contributing to regional workforce development. Work Skills 101 consists of pre- and post-assessments of participants as well as structured learning about professional and life skills. The program is strengths-based and customized for each participant, so they have the opportunity to focus on work and goals for self-improvement or career advancement. Fitting to MDI's mission, the classes are offered to and attended by employees without disabilities learning side-by-side with their co-workers who have disabilities.
"Integrated learning is a true innovation in the field, it aligns with the state's overall shift away from non-integrated settings and opportunities toward integrated, community-based options," said MDI Director of Employment Services, Jeanne Eglinton. "MDI is regarded as a successful model of integrated employment, however, the implementation of an integrated training program takes this concept to a new level."
Each graduate of Work Skills 101 receives a certificate of completion, which they can use as a resume-builder for future job searches. Opportunities for advancement are also periodically available at MDI, and MDI leadership is hopeful the new learning will result in internal promotions.
"Work Skills 101 is a great fit in our region because it helps address the employment crisis we're already starting to see," said Mark Phillips, commissioner of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, who was in attendance at the Hibbing celebration. "More and more, we're going to be seeing opportunities for people with disabilities, and this program helps build the needed job and life skills. I was especially glad to hear that MDI is also moving toward expanding the program to include other community members."
During closing remarks at the event in Hibbing, Jeanne Eglinton announced that MDI had just been awarded a grant from Minnesota State (formerly MNSCU) to help expand the scope of Work Skills 101. MDI is also waiting for word on a number of other grants that could help expand the program further.
"I'm thrilled about Work Skills 101, and it has been an honor to be a part of this celebration," said Representative Julie Sandstede (DFL - Hibbing). "This program is helping build ground skills for individuals, which will help them advance here in their work or move into positions with other employers in a variety of settings. This type of programming is good for our region, and I'm excited to watch it develop."