By: Curtis Hankins
Last Updated: December 23, 2019
A high school diploma shows a lot of things, but mostly just indicates a classic, well-rounded education. For fresh-faced graduates or current high school students looking for a job without an employment history, however, it can be difficult to showcase a strong work ethic to prospective employers.
The Center of Workforce Innovations is devoted to building a stronger, more effective workforce around the Region. One of the resources they offer is called the Work Ethic Certificate. By partnering with the Northwest Indiana Workforce Board, Work One, Region 1 Work Council, and Ready NWI, they developed a program for schools that builds personal skills valued by employers: positive attitudes, teamwork, punctuality, time-management, and more.
“We surveyed over 100 employers about what they look for in employees,” said Danni Mancusi-Shreve, Work Ethic Coordinator for the Center of Workforce Innovations. “They identified those sort of soft skills as their key targets for large corporations, mom and pop stores, retail, manufacturing, and all employment and workforce sectors.”
The most important step in implementing the Work Ethic Certificate program was finding partners among local schools willing to jump in headfirst. Chesterton High School was one of those schools.
“Kids can know everything, but if they don’t know how to work, what good is it?” said Brent Martinson, Principal at Chesterton High School. “We wanted to make sure to teach our kids the importance of a work ethic so that they could be successful after they finish here.”
When they first adopted the program, they managed to recruit 36 students. The program grew dramatically over the years and today, more than 315 students are enrolled to earn their certificates.
“I have two rules at the school: work hard every day and treat people right,” Martinson said. “And if there’s anything I can relate to working hard, it’s the Work Ethic Certificate Program. It’s a part of what we believe in as a school community, and the students really buy into that concept.”
According to Martinson, some students have already seen immediate results from earning their certificates.
“One student told me that they got a job at Subway over the summer because of their certificate,” he said. “They brought it in when they applied and it got them the job on the spot.”
The Work Ethic Certificate is now recognized across the Region as an indicator of a talented, hard-working job seeker. Employers in all kinds of industries have given strong positive feedback to the Center of Workforce Innovations, including one of the early adopters, Indiana Beverage.
“Those sort of soft skills are very difficult to impart on an employee coming in,” said George Douglas, Senior Vice President at Indiana Beverage and member of the Northwest Indiana Workforce Board. “If we know they already have those skills, it’s a big point of difference when we’re hiring.”
Rather than wait for potential hires to mention their certificates, Indiana Beverage added it right into their hiring process.
“We believe in it so much that we put it right on our job applications,” Douglas said. “We’ve tracked the employees that we bring on who have certificates, and typically find that they’re better prepared for the job versus those who don’t have one. It gives them an edge up.”
Recently, the Indiana State Government added their own Work Ethic Certificate Program that is recognized statewide. Martinson is already seeing his students get excited about the opportunities these certificates represent.
“They’re seeing that this is more about them in the future compared to them in the present,” he said. “They like that because they’re thinking about their purpose and how they can fulfill that. The only way they can do that is to get after it and work hard, so they’ve been really responsive.”