December 20, 2016

by Lisa Proulx

PORTSMOUTH –  More than 2,500 New Hampshire residents have sharpened their workplace skills and made themselves more attractive to employers since fall 2011 through WorkReadyNH, a model workforce development program offered through the Community College System of New Hampshire.

The tuition-free, 60-hour program prepares people to get a good job, keep a job, get a promotion, or change careers, said program director Christina Wall. “We all know how to go to work so we all think we are work ready. This program is about refreshing your skills so you can move forward or move in to something else,” she said.

The next classes begin on January 9th at the Portsmouth campus of Great Bay Community College. Classes meet 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Thursday. Great Bay also offers an eight-week night class. The next night class begins in April, 2017.

The program targets people who are unemployed, under-employed and those seeking promotions in their field or a career change. WRNH is a comprehensive soft skills program teaching how to write resumes, prepare for a job interviews and how to be a better worker. Classroom topics include effective communication, interpersonal skills, and problem solving skills, conflict resolution, team building, integrity and initiative.

Those skills distinguish excellent employees and result in jobs with better pay and benefits, and are necessary to succeed in today’s workplace, Wall said. In addition, students learn foundational skills in applied math, locating information and reading for information.

The course places participants in simulated workplace settings and includes mock interviews with human resource managers of New Hampshire companies. Students move through a series of common situations they are likely to encounter at work, and collaborate on interactive group projects.  Students create an idea for a new product or service, and present the idea to the class. The process emphasizes communication skills, and the importance of working together toward a common goal, Wall said.

The program is open to any New Hampshire resident 18 or older, and is presented in partnership with the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development and the Department of Employment Security. It is funded through the New Hampshire Job Training Fund.

Now in its fifth year, the program has graduated more than 2,500 people statewide, with a graduation rate of 78 percent. Of 635 students who participated the course in Fiscal Year 2016, 285 enrolled through Great Bay, Wall said.

“It’s going really well,” she said. “We’re very happy with the quality and delivery of the program across the state, and we’ve been super busy. Our numbers for 2016 were wonderful, especially with unemployment as low as it is.”

Participation in WorkReadyNH is required for students who enroll in Great Bay’s medical assistant, office administration and CNC programs, Wall said. Which is great because it’s an opportunity to keep our work force skills and strong.

New Hampshire Employers like participating in WRNH activities because it gives them first dibs on prospective employees, she added. “They do it because they are looking for a talented pool of candidates,” she said.

When they complete the program, students receive a National Career Readiness Certificate, which endorses national hiring standards, as well as a WorkReadyNH certificate.  By hiring people who are certified ready to work, companies can reduce the costs of hiring and training qualified employees, and reduce turnover and increase productivity, Wall said.

Anne Paquin, who works in human resources at Trividia Manufacturing Solutions in Lancaster, said WorkReadyNH is effective because of the real-world situations that students have to navigate. The program “thoroughly” prepares students for work, she said. “Today, more than ever, we are looking for job applicants with demonstrated soft skills. These skills include the ability to make decisions, to think critically and to work effectively as part of a team,” she said.

Laurie Donahue, a current student in Portsmouth, already has work lined up. She is enrolled in Great Bay’s Medical Assistant program, and begins an externship at Exeter Core Physicians in January. WorkReadyNH helped her build an effective resume and gave her confidence during the interview.

She called the class “amazing. I highly recommend anyone who is looking for a job, a change in career or just looking to enhance their interviewing skills to consider WorkReadyNH. It has already changed my life for the better,” she said.

Jon Whitcomb, who graduated from the program in Rochester in August, said the program gave him new ideas about how to look for a job. “I was hesitant at first, but quickly realized the benefits of re-starting my brain,” he said.

Another Portsmouth student, William Toothaker, said, “I am sure that what I have learned will continue to pay off for the remainder of my life.”

The program continues to evolve to meet community needs, Wall said. She is working with administrators at Frisbee Memorial Hospital to make the program available to people enrolled in the Rochester Community Recover Center.

Spring 2017 Day classes:

Jan 9th –Jan 27                  Portsmouth Mon-Fri 9am-2pm

Feb 13th –Mar 7               Rochester   Mon- Th 9am -2pm

March 13- Mar 31             Portsmouth  Mon- Th 9am-2pm

April 10-May 1                   Rochester  Mon – Th 9am-2pm

Spring Evening Class

April 18th – June 8           Portsmouth, Tuesday & Thursday 5pm-9pm

To learn more about the program, contact the WorkReadyNH Center at (603) 427-7636 (Portsmouth or Rochester) or attend an Open House at both Rochester and Portsmouth campuses on January 5 from 4:00-6:00PM.