December 23, 1996 in Nation/World

Hire Education High School Program Awards ‘Certificates Of Employability’ That Pay Off For Job Seekers

By The Spokesman-Review

What does it mean to be on time?

It doesn’t mean rushing to work at the last minute, says Post Falls High School counselor Mike Arnold.

“It means being five or 10 minutes early.”

That’s the kind of real-world information that students get before they earn a “certificate of employability” from Post Falls High or Lakeland High School in nearby Rathdrum. That piece of paper gives students an edge in getting and keeping a job. For employers, it takes some of the risk out of hiring young people.

The program is in its third year at Lakeland, where 175 students earned the certificate last year.

Twenty-five Post Falls students participated in 1995-96, that school’s first try at the program. Arnold hopes to have 100 to 150 signed up before next summer.

“Right now, we have more businesses that would hire kids than we have eligible kids,” Arnold said last week.

Certificates are bestowed at the end of each semester. They require good attendance at school plus teachers’ recommendations.

Students are judged on whether they come to class prepared, are self-motivated, show respect, can cooperate and regularly complete assignments and tests.

All of those traits carry over to the workplace, Arnold said. But good attendance is most important to employers.

Businesses can’t afford to train employees, then lose them after two weeks because they’re not dependable, said Burger King manager Linda Winn.

Some kids think it’s “no big deal” to skip work, she said. That’s why the certificate of employability is catching on with businesses.

“Quite a few I’ve spoken to are just really excited about it,” Winn said.

Ahmed Saleh, a Post Falls junior, went to work at Burger King about the time he earned his certificate last June.

Classmate Leslie Heid didn’t have hers yet when she landed a job at Super 1 Foods. She expects to be better-prepared at her next job interview.

“Some of the things I had no clue about,” Heid said. “Next time, I’ll be clearer when I speak.”

Sophomore Jason Whitesitt recently applied at Super 1. He feels confident about facing an interviewer, now that he’s armed with good advice.

“Mostly, they want to know why you want the job. You don’t say, ‘For the money,”’ Whitesitt said. “The employer would rather hear that you want to work for the experience.”

Counselors try to add job skills to the school curriculum. Arnold often visits English classes, where he talks about applications and resumes and tells students about the certificate of employability.

The program can boost students’ grades as well as their job prospects.

“They’re being rewarded for good attendance, timeliness and preparation for classes,” said Katie Damon, a counselor at Lakeland High.

“What gives this credibility is that employers are buying into it,” Damon added. “The more employers who support it, the more it’s going to have relevance in the eyes of the students.”

Silverwood Theme Park and Stein’s IGA hire a lot of Lakeland students and are big boosters of the program.

Just the fact that a job applicant mentions the certificate is a sign of initiative, said Lori Brooke, Silverwood’s human resources manager.

But she emphasized that a certificate isn’t required. “We don’t say, ‘You didn’t get one, so you’re not worthy of working for us.”’

More than half of all juniors and seniors hold part-time jobs, according to Arnold. In Brooke’s experience, a lot of them are worthy.

“I’ve been really impressed with the kids who come out of our local high schools.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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