This piece was submitted by Hugo Chavez, Managing Director of the Corporate Work Study Program
Summer of 2012 – we use the summer to train incoming students and also make job assignments for our open positions at our business partners. We have a combination of “paying” jobs and service sector jobs (“non paying”) in order to employ all CRSM students in a professional work environment. We perform diagnostic testing of students plus use previous performance appraisals and input to ranking system which is used to assign students to the job openings that best meet their skill sets.
An analysis of the students assigned to service sector jobs showed that we have an abnormally high number of upperclassmen in these positions (in comparison to other Cristo Rey schools) and we needed to justify why they were designated to be placed in these jobs and then develop these students so they can be placed in paying jobs.
How to analyze the students in service sector jobs and create a development plan for each one? A second problem is given the lean staffing of the Corporate Work Study Program there was not enough time or experience for staff to effectively assess our students.
Preston Kendall, President of CRSM, suggested that I contact the Ignatian Volunteer Corps to see if there may be people willing to help our cause. He recalled IVC volunteers helping other Cristo Rey schools in various capacities. I contacted Christine Curran of IVC and based on her suggestion submitted a “job posting” about our program needs in the hope that we could find one IVC volunteer to help us. We ended up with two IVC volunteers in the Corporate Work Study Program and subsequently, CRSM added a third volunteer to help the school as a nurse consultant.
Jean Spiegelhalter and Win Culkin have been tremendous assets to our CWSP program. Based on a few initial meetings they produced a thorough plan to observe each student at their work place and then create individualized development plans that are related to their specific needs . Win and Jean performed detailed onsite work observations of the students plus interviewed each student’s supervisors and documented their findings. Subsequently, they have regularly meetings with each student at their work sites to provide one-on-one development exercises as well as specific suggestions designed to help students improve their skills and work performance.
Here are a couple of examples:
With students who are quiet/shy to the point it impacts their interpersonal relationships with adults, exercises involving Charades and students conducting interviews with various school staff were utilized. A student who was below grade level in English grammar to the point it affected the ability to summarize or effectively write work related memos gained a lot from the use of a personalized Word Wall. This word wall helped the student to improve their business writing effectiveness (and I was quite amazed at the IVC volunteer adapting spelling and English tests to hone in on the specific areas of grammar weakness in this student). A third example was the development of telephone calling exercises with a student who was essentially afraid to speak with people on the phone.
In little over half a school year we moved from subjective/gut feelings about student’s future plans to comprehensive evaluations with consensus recommendations on these students’ future plans. Without our IVC volunteers we would continue to struggle with gut feel decisions and a much lower success rate in our work skill evaluation and development efforts. We plan to utilize our volunteers for input on additional projects that are key to the role of the Corporate Work Study Program. Our IVC volunteers are a blessing to our mission.