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Volunteers needed to train the trainers

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If you love to work with young people, and you are patient, flexible and innovative, Donnovan Beckford has a job for you.

The Westchester-Putnam Workforce Development Board has created a train-the-trainer program to help young people develop soft skills that will enable them to succeed in their jobs.

donnovan-beckfordBeckford, the director, is looking for volunteers who will help community organizations coach young people.

“We don’t want to send them blindly into jobs,” he said. “We want to provide a framework, especially for first-time employees, on what employers expect.”

The Business Council of Westchester sparked the program in 2011 when it asked how young people can prepare more effectively for work. Representatives of colleges, businesses, youth groups and religious organizations met to discuss the attributes that businesses look for.

“What we’re hearing is that it’s not the hard skills they want,” said Beckford, referring to technical or job-specific skills, “but soft skills.”

The committee identified more than 100 attributes and narrowed the list to five key behaviors. They go by the acronym READI: respect, enthusiasm, articulateness, dependability and initiative.

Last year the workforce board paid Hospitality Resource Group, White Plains, $49,000 to develop a curriculum.

The workforce board places 500 to 700 youths in jobs every summer. Last summer, the curriculum was tested and validated by this cohort.

Now the workforce board wants to offer the curriculum to every organization that places young people in jobs.

Religious organizations, youth groups and high schools could use READI, Beckford said. So now the program needs a cadre of master trainers.

These trainers will not work directly with youth. Instead, they will train volunteers from organizations that work with young people.

Beckford wants to find at least 10 people for that role. Everyone will learn the whole curriculum, but will specialize in one of the five skills.

The idea is modeled on SCORE – Service Corps of Retired Executives – a nonprofit organization that provides free business mentoring services and partners with the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Beckford is looking for teachers, trainers and other professionals, especially retirees, who love to work with young people. The role requires patience, flexibility and innovation because the trainers must adapt the curriculum to young people from a variety of backgrounds.

The volunteers must commit to 15 to 20 hours of training and be willing to periodically spend two to three days instructing new trainers.

Applications are due by Dec. 31. The classes will be held in mid-January.

Once the core group is trained, the workforce board will look for the volunteers who will work directly with young people. These people must be affiliated with organizations.

READI is important, Beckford said, because businesses rely on young people to fill jobs.

“And these attributes go beyond the workplace,” he said. “These are good things that youth need to learn.”

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