A pilot project running this semester aims to equip students with “soft” or “essential” skills and certifications that employers state are critical as well as educate students on the potential impacts of legal marijuana use on their career aspirations.
“Regional employers have stated over and over again that our graduates are incredibly well prepared in their trade or discipline but may lack understanding of workplace norms and don’t always understand that use of marijuana, although legal in Colorado, can be career limiting,” said Brigitte Sündermann, vice president for community college affairs.
Employment experts echo that sentiment. “Being knowledgeable in your field and skilled to do your job is just one part of career success,” said Curtis Englehart, director of the Mesa County Workforce Center and a project collaborator. “A vast majority of success lies in other areas: your personal presentation, working well with the rest of your colleagues, understanding the basic expectation of showing up on time, communicating well and being able to pass a drug screening to name just a few.”
To meet regional workforce needs, Colorado Mesa University, its two-year division Western Colorado Community College, the Mesa County Workforce Center and the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce have partnered on a pilot project funded through the generosity of the El Pomar Foundation’s Northwest Council.
This spring a free, one-credit hour course titled “Work Readiness” will provide enrollees with some of the skills employers said are missing.
“We’ll take students on a fast but fulfilling eight-week journey to help them prepare for a job search, understand workplace expectations, learn how to present themselves, explore truths about drug use and background checks, understand networking, learn how to prepare the perfect resume, touch on personal finance and more,” said Rhonda Johnson, the course’s instructor.
The eight-week course, open to all WCCC students and free to those who enroll, starts on March 25 and runs through the end of the Spring 2021 semester. Students currently enrolled in an associate of applied science (AAS) program may replace a required kinesiology activity course with the work ready course (ABUS 196 for those planning to enroll.) It’s also open and free to clients of the Mesa County Workforce Center.
A separate, but related, part of this project funded by the El Pomar Foundation focuses on educating young adults in Mesa County about the potential impacts of marijuana use on their employment. A baseline survey was conducted in early February to gauge understanding and attitudes among students age 18-25 on the topic. Currently, a campaign is running on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok that aims to educate students about policies many employers have regarding use, testing and that it may limit some career aspirations. The campaign runs through May when a second survey will be conducted to understand effectiveness of the campaign.