Operation Exploration – HANDS-ON Career Camps Are Back!
CMJTS was excited to once again host summer career exploration camps starting in the summer of 2021 in partnership with Mille Lacs Health System in Onamia and the Mille Lacs Band In the summer of 2022, four camps have already been held. Healthcare careers was the focus in Monticello. Willmar held two camps -one in healthcare and one in the trades. The fourth was in Pine County located at the 49rs Union Training Center focusing on a variety of trades through partnership with additional Union Training Centers. A total of 50 youth have benefited so far through their participation. There will be one additional trades focused camp in Monticello to be held in late in July.
These camps would not have been possible without the dedication and passion of Youth Program Manager Diana Ristamaki, the youth team at CMJTS, and all of those who donated time, money, and resources. Please see the donor recognition flyer below for more details.
How do you know at a young age what you want to do? Opportunities for young people to experience different careers with hands-on activities are priceless. It allows youth to try out careers they may not have thought of or may help them avoid wasting tuition on a career that isn’t a fit for them. Staff asked participants for their thoughts on the camp experience, and they shared the quotes below.
What were your favorite activities?
- “Dentistry – the mouth speech game nursing home – wheel chair thing, EMT – the carrier thing, and the recruiters that came to camp.”
- “Hydro dipping, auto-body, and simulation welding.”
- “I really enjoyed the hands-on activities. My favorite was when we were able to practice taking shots (IV) on the dummies (it was on the first day).”
My favorite thing about camp; “Meeting new people. Those being new peers and valuable contacts for the future.” – youth participant
Would you recommend camp to another youth?
- “Yes, I really would tell that this is really fun and important info.”
- “Yes, I would recommend the camp to others so they can have the experience of seeing trade work sites and experience hands on with different trades.”
- “Yes, I recommend to others cause you meet people and do a bunch of cool stuff and get a lot of stuff.”
- “I would recommend to others because I think the camp will help people figure out more about the medical field (get to know what specific areas they would want to be in). It will also help those who are trying to explore different careers.”
Operation Exploration -
Hi! My name is Maria Garcia. I come from a small town called Willmar in Minnesota. I am currently enrolled in the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program at Anoka Technical College. This fall semester I will be finishing up the second year of my degree and will hopefully be graduating in the Spring! After I graduate, I wish to pursue my degree by specializing in an area of occupational therapy such as mental health or geriatrics. I would have not been able to go this far with my education if it wasn’t for CMJTS. As a first generation college student, it was hard for me to know where to find resources for school or how to fill out certain documents like the FAFSA. Sadly, these were all things that I was not able to ask my parents or siblings because I was the first one in my family of five to go to college. Thankfully, one of my cousins had heard of CMJTS and referred me to them. Since then all I can say is thank you for all the help CMJTS has given to me. Especially Delina Woltjer, my Youth Employment Specialist, who has helped me out since day one. I am forever grateful for everything you have helped me with and continue to help me with. Not only have your resources and advice influenced my life, but they have also changed the course of my family’s life. Now I will be able to help them with those difficult documents and refer them to resources like CMJTS. I cannot wait for them to one day be able to share their success as well!
Maria Garcia - Youth participant
Emma was a senior at Buffalo High School when she enrolled in WIOS IS program March 2019. She was working at Lake Ridge Care Center as a Care Attendant, living at a friend’s house temporarily, and did not have stable housing, or family support. Emma shared that she has a mental health diagnosis, is homeless, and is on the free lunch program.
Emma did not know what she wanted to do for a career, and felt unsure about continuing to work in healthcare. “I didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t have any money to go to college.”
After talking to her school counselor at Buffalo HS, she was referred to the youth program at Central Minnesota Jobs and Training Services. Once enrolled in the youth program, Emma did career exploration, took a career assessment, and researched healthcare careers.
In April 2019 Emma took the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) course at Anderson CNA/HHA Training Center with the funding assistance of the youth program and became a certified CNA/HHA. Emma graduated high school in May and started a fulltime overnight CNA position at the Monticello Hospital Geriatric Behavioral Health unit making $18 per hour.
Emma was excited to be able to get her own apartment. She shared, “I am moving up because of my new job.”
In January 2020, Emma started general education classes at North Hennepin Community College with a goal to start the RN program Fall 2020 semester. Emma is currently taking 15 credits and is able, and encouraged to, work on her college classes during the down time on her overnight shifts. She has been thankful for supportive assistance to help with transportations costs.
Emma’s future goals include completing the 2-year RN program and exploring positions and other populations to serve as a nurse. When asked what she would share with others about the youth program, Emma said, “I tell everyone about your program. I wouldn’t have gone to college – you started my whole career!”
CMJTS’ Women-on-the-Move project focuses on serving women ages 16 and over, particularly women of color. The project will help women identify better-paying jobs in traditionally male-dominated professions (e.g. manufacturing-related careers, commercial driving), where their talents and interests will be put to good use. CMJTS is partnering with Ridgewater College customized training to provide a two-week course that offers an introduction to manufacturing and production occupations. The idea is to help women move from lower paid occupations with less opportunity (e.g. retail and hospitality) to traditionally male-dominated jobs with better hours, pay, benefits, and opportunities for advancement. We want our participants to see that there are good opportunities for women and that many women in our area can and do find success in production/manufacturing.
The two-week course will include overviews on a variety of manufacturing processes. Safety practices will also be emphasized. Additionally, participants will have the opportunity to become certified in fork-lift operation. The program will include local manufacturing tours where participants can make real connections with local employers. These employers will provide trainees with facility tours, show them what their positions involve, and introduce them to other women who are working there and are happy with their jobs.
The Women-on-the-Move project will then help these women obtain the training necessary to enter these fields. Career coaching and mentorship will be provided by women already successful in nontraditional arenas and it is expected that at least half of the women served will also be enrolled in additional employment and training programs to help them achieve success.
The first cohort of trainees completed the program on February 21, 2020. Thirteen women completed the program successfully and eleven of them obtained the forklift certification. Two of the women obtained unsubsidized employment shortly after completion.
Women-on-the-Move - WESA grant
Despite having completed high school and graduating from Hutchinson’s Transition Assistance Program, an extended program for students with disabilities who require additional life skills training, Brock found himself largely unprepared for the working world. Aside from some minimal farm-related volunteer experience, he had no real employment history.
What Brock did have was a great deal of interest in the automotive industry. So, in the summer of 2019, his new employment specialist gave him an opportunity to explore that industry via a program-funded, 150 hour, paid work experience with a local auto repair shop – Car Shop, Inc. While things didn’t always go perfectly, for the most part, Brock performed very well. “I had fun working at the Car Shop and I learned a lot of new things I never knew before”, said Brock.
In addition to giving Brock more insight into the auto industry, this job gave Brock the chance to earn a professional reference. That reference, coupled with his new employment history, helped him land a part-time job at the local Walmart. Today, Brock stocks shelves and does some behind the scenes work in the store. He earns $11.50/hour, something that wouldn’t have been possible for him just a few months ago. Brock is looking forward to a brighter future, thanks to the opportunity provided to him by CMJTS and an understanding employer.
Brock - Youth
During the 2018-2019 school year, Alesha (age 15) was given the opportunity to receive Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) from Central Minnesota Jobs and Training Services’ (CMJTS’) Youth Program. These Pre-ETS services, were designed to give high school students managing disabilities the chance to work with peer groups to explore careers, improve financial literacy, and develop both work readiness and self-advocacy skills.
Alesha became a top contributor in her Pre-ETS group and her employment specialist, Mel, quickly determined that she was ready to apply her skills on-the-job. While only 15, it was evident that Alesha was motivated and had a strong work ethic. Mel connected Alesha with the local food shelf and she was hired as a CMJTS work experience participant. While enjoying the rewards that come with earning a paycheck, Alesha gained real-life experience and developed a foundation of work skills to apply in the competitive workplace.
When asked about her job at the food shelf, Alesha said; “Working here, I feel I learned how to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak English that well and get them what they needed. I really like this program because now, when I apply somewhere else, I have a recommendation and experience working in a grocery store-type setting. If I didn’t get the work experience, I probably wouldn’t even have a job at the moment. It’s hard to find a starting job when you’ve never had a job because lots of companies like people that have experience.”
Because she knows her CMJTS work experience position at the food shelf is winding down, Alesha is job searching with vigor! She is moving forward with the skills and confidence, as well as good references!
Alesha - Pre-ETS
An opportunity for advancement ignited a fire in Amanda, who worked as a childcare teacher at Allstar Childcare Center in Milaca.
When the business owner was seeking a new director, Amanda was a natural fit. To be qualified by the state to hold a director position, Amanda needed to obtain college credits. Her best option was to enroll in the Child and Adult Care Education program at St. Cloud Technical & Community College. Amanda graduated in the spring of 2018 and has been training for the director position while going to school.
Allstar Childcare Center just opened in their new location, and Amanda is enjoying her new office!
Amanda Hoffman - Adult - Mille Lacs County
SVEA — For 21 years, students from the Youthbuild program have helped bring an old country school back to life.
Youthbuild, a program of Central Minnesota Jobs and Training Services, helps introduce unemployed young people to a variety of careers in the building trades industry. The program is active at the Area Learning Center, a Willmar Public Schools alternative high school.
In addition to spending time at area businesses, the youth in the program do volunteer work.
A number of nonprofit organizations in the area have benefited from their work. They’ve done repair work and some light construction work for the organizations. Among their projects have been raised planting beds and activity tables.
At DEMO Inc., in the former Svea School, young people have helped
At DEMO Inc., in the former Svea School, young people have helped complete projects to preserve the 1907 building’s history and develop it into a place to teach and develop young artists.
DEMO stands for Developing, Exploring, Maintaining Originality through the Arts. It was founded by artists and recently retired art teachers Monica Villars and Pauline Donahue, both of Willmar.
Donahue and Villars have put countless hours of their own effort into rehabbing the building, which was in poor condition when they purchased it.
They have hired building trades professionals where needed to improve wiring, plumbing, electrical and other systems in the building.
And volunteers from Youthbuild and other organizations have helped get lots of work done. They have included students from the ALC service learning class and volunteers from a Svea church and group homes in Willmar.
“We’ve had so many years of the kids working; it’s made a huge difference,”
Villars said in May, as she pulled weeds alongside some Youthbuild students. Villars taught at the ALC for many years
Delina Woltjer, a youth employment specialist for Central Minnesota Jobs and Training Services, said she works with the students three times a week. Near the end of the school year, she told them they could choose between visiting businesses or volunteering, they chose to do more volunteer work.
Woltjer pulled weeds that day with Villars and several students. One of them, Natalia Deleon, 17, a sophomore at the ALC, said she has enjoyed her Youthbuild experience. She liked learning about welding, she said, and she enjoys coming to DEMO.
At DEMO, Youthbuild has done a little of everything.
Over time the students have plotted and planted a garden. A small grove overgrown with weeds and brush is now a green lawn dotted with trees.
“So many hours went into clearing brush,”
Youthbuild students have helped refinish woodwork and paint walls inside the building. A group of students helped insulate and weatherproof the building’s rock basement and foundation. They’ve helped insulate the attic, too.
Outdoors, Youthbuild teens built a wooden platform for a picnic table nestled in a shady spot near the building. Villars said it kept the picnic table from sinking into the soft ground. In May, Kaystone Bautista, 16, a junior, used a power sander to smooth away the picnic table’s weathered surface so it could be refinished.
Some of the work is more physical, some with an artistic bent. Mona Sepulveda, a senior, recently painted the raised designs on an old door. Donahue provided the color scheme, and Sepulveda carried out her plan.
Over the years, young people who’ve volunteered at DEMO sometimes return to visit.
“I love to see kids in the arts,”
“I’m proud of all the babies and the places they’ve gone.”
Donahue taught in BOLD schools. Story published in West Central Tribune, written By Linda Vanderwerf on Jun 8, 2018
Youthbuild - State funded Youthbuild
The saying “When one door closes another opens,” became reality for Kristina.
What does one do when the position you love is eliminated? When your education is non-transferable as similar positions are hard to come by? When your joy and passion for working with people is limitless? This is the situation Kristina Chase found herself in after her position as a dining room director at a nursing home was eliminated after 15 years.
Kristina decided to go back to school to become a licensed practical nurse, and eventually, a registered nurse, with assistance from the CMJTS Dislocated Worker Program. Kristina participated in a Career Camp to earn her nursing assistant license, worked part-time at a summer camp as a camp nurse, all while maintaining a minimum 3.9 GPA throughout her college career.
Kristina has a lot to be proud of. Upon graduating with her degree and RN license, Kristina will no doubt find enjoyable and self-sustaining employment in a field she is good at and has passion for.
Kristina - Federal Dislocated Worker and MJSP
Samuel never pictured himself working in customer service at a busy, new-concept grocery store. In fact, he had a hard time picturing himself applying for any job at all until one day when his parents conspired to drop him off at the local WorkForce Center.
“They just dropped me off and left me there for like two hours. Finally, I got up the courage to go in and ask to talk to someone.”
Central Minnesota Jobs and Training Services, Inc. (CMJTS) youth employment specialist, Ryan, was the first to meet with Samuel at the WorkForce Center. When the ReImagine Retail Customer Service class came up, Ryan encouraged him to attend and helped Samuel get enrolled. The small group class format helped Samuel, over the four-week course, work through his extreme shyness and gradually become comfortable interacting with the instructor and fellow students.
At an employer roundtable that was part of the class, Samuel met Mary Kruck, store director for the Isanti, Minnesota, Coborn’s Marketplace. She spoke about their new-concept store, which focuses on the customer experience. She also talked about their search for new employees open to learning new ways of doing things. Mary emphasized that everyone has different skills to offer and that Coborn’s has a place for people who are willing to work hard and capitalize on their abilities. Samuel thought,
“Maybe Coborn’s is a place that I’d like to work.”
After completing the class and passing the National Retail Federation Customer Service and Sales Certification exam, CMJTS staff set up an opportunity for Samuel to interview with Coborn’s for a paid work experience, a temporary worksite arrangement that teaches individuals work-readiness skills. Through this training, funded by the ReImagine Retail grant, Samuel spent three months in training at Coborn’s as a bagger. Samuel asked to learn more and was given the opportunity to learn how to cashier. At the end of his work experience, Samuel was surprised and happy to be offered a regular position as a cashier. Then, in August 2017, an opening in the modern kitchen area became available so Samuel applied for it.
“I really like staying busy. In the kitchen I can still enjoy interacting with the guests, but I always have extra tasks to do. It’s really fun when I get to try different things like creating the wood-fired pizzas and learning to cook a variety of things.”
Samuel shared that his homeschool background gave him great academic skills but did not force him to develop his social or technology skills. He stated that in some ways, not getting caught up in technology like other kids his age was helpful to stay focused on important things, but it also kept him unprepared for the interpersonal skills needed to be successful in a job.
When asked about some of the ways Samuel has worked through his challenges on the job, he stated,
“I just picture everyone as family. Even working with some of the more crabby customers is fun. It’s interesting to see what they are going to say on each trip to the store.”
When it comes to his dyslexia, he stated that he relies on his memory.
“I just used every free minute while cashiering to memorize the buttons, difficult words, anything I needed to know. Cucumber—that was really tough. I know it sounds crazy but that was a tough one for me. Honestly, if it wasn’t for this program, I don’t think they (Coborn’s) would have ever given me a chance at a job. My interview was bad. I couldn’t make eye contact—in fact, I looked all around the room instead of at the person interviewing me. It took me two hours to have enough courage to even go to the interview. I got to the store two hours before the interview time. I went in and wandered around to get familiar with the place. I couldn’t get up the courage to ask where to go for the interview, so I went back out to my car and I just sat there. I almost just left without doing it, but I knew I probably couldn’t get out of this one, so finally I just went in.”
What advice would Samuel give someone else?
“Just keep moving forward every day, even when you really don’t want to keep going.”
Samuel also commented about his experience in the ReImagine Retail Program.
“Patience—that was one of the best things about the people I’ve worked with in the program. They were so patient with me when I wasn’t in touch as often as I should have been. Sometimes I avoided their calls, but they just kept on trying and encouraging me.”
Samuel noted that having staff support, learning about Coborn’s during the class, meeting Mary, practicing customer service skills, and getting his certification were all important.
“It’s really great to be at a job where I work with good people. Really, everyone is so friendly and just nice.”
Mary, store director shared:
“Samuel is our diamond in the rough and we are happy to have him for as long as he is happy to have us!”
During Samuel’s training and employment at Coborn’s, his wage has increased from $9.50 an hour to nearly $12 an hour. Congratulations, Samuel!
Samuel - ReImagine Retail
Early in my career I earned my bachelor’s degree in Conflict Studies and Peacemaking with a minor in Native American Studies, but never pursued a career with that degree. Instead, my career has been primarily in the construction industry for about 25 years.
In 2008, after a downturn in construction, I met Vanessa through the Central Minnesota Jobs and Training Services, Inc., (CMJTS) Dislocated Worker Program. While I was interested in training, as a single parent, it didn’t work out for me at that time. I rode out the recession and returned to construction. Unfortunately, I later experienced several injuries requiring surgery and therapy, including a serious on-the-job injury, which prevented me from returning to construction. Knowing my desire to become a physical therapist assistant (PTA), my physical therapy doctor encouraged me to pursue a career as a PTA.
Eventually I reconnected with Vanessa and the Dislocated Worker Program. She proved to be indispensable with her knowledge of the program and her support. She walked me through the process every step of the way, from career exploration to qualifying for the PTA program. Vanessa explained every facet of the program and ensured all deadlines and timelines were met. I applied and was accepted into the PTA program at Lake Area Technical Institute (LATI) in Watertown, SD—two hours west of Willmar. Vanessa was able to assist with my school expenses and even had money, at times, to help me make ends meet. She was an invaluable resource during my entire program from start to finish, regularly checking in to ask me if there was anything I needed to be successful.
On May 11, 2018, I graduated with high honors from the PTA program. If it hadn’t been for the Dislocated Worker Program and Vanessa’s guidance through the process, school may not have been a possibility. Along with the support of my wife, knowing that someone else would go to great lengths to help me succeed, motivated me to work harder.
I am currently a PTA at Meeker Manor, a skilled nursing facility, in Litchfield, MN, and enjoy helping people through the healing and recovery process to regain their prior level of function or surpass it.
Michael - Minnesota Dislocated Worker
Austin, father of three, suffered kidney failure in 2002, which completely changed his life. His first kidney transplant failed and he had a second in 2016. The birth of his third child motivated him to improve his education. While on dialysis, he earned his GED through Adult Basic Education (ABE). While at ABE, he learned about the CMJTS Pathways to Prosperity grant opportunity, which would allow him to learn welding at Anoka Technical College. While attending classes, he made many things out of various metals such as a lamp, saw horses, and various artistic pieces made from welding blueprints. He completed the program with a 3.4 GPA and is now considering starting his own business.
“I am grateful for the positive support, ease of navigation, and helpful financial assistance during my time at school. We need to do a better job of getting the word out (about these programs) and not have to ‘stumble’ upon services.”
Austin - CMJTS Pathways to Prosperity and Central MN East ABE Co-enrollment
Khamla was born in Laos and spent six years in a refugee camp before coming to the U.S at age 17. He finished at the top of his high school class and got a scholarship to the University of St. Thomas. However, due to illness in his family, he turned down the scholarship and went to work for a medical device company where he worked in engineering for 22 years. Then after a series of lay-offs, Khamla was referred to CMJTS for the dislocated worker program. Three years later, Khamla earned his mechanical engineering degree from St. Cloud State. Next fall, he will start his M.A. in clinical research.
“What can I say? Literally they helped me with everything. At CMJTS I found the best person I’ve ever worked with in my whole life!”
Khamla - CMJTS State Dislocated Worker Program Customer
Priscilla at 22 years old was homeless and a drug addict. She kicked the drug habit on her own, but without any education was only able to get entry-level jobs. A friend introduced her to CMJTS, which helped her set her goals: earning her GED, obtaining work experience, and going to college. With support service help from CMJTS, Priscilla earned her GED, worked a temporary job at a library where she learned time management and other soft skills, and, in January 2017, she started the Healthcare Administrative Assistant program. Priscilla earned a 4.0 GPA during her first year and shared, “I am not a drug addict; I am a college student!”
“In the short term, I’d like to work at a mental health clinic as a receptionist. In ten years, when I’m done with my education, I want to work in elderly care. Thank you to my employment specialist. She is an amazing person.”
Priscilla - CMJTS WIOA Out-of-School Youth
When four coworkers and I lost our jobs to restructuring, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I had been taking graduate classes to be a counselor who helps people suffering from addiction. A neighbor asked me if I knew about the program that helped retrain people who lost their job. One thing led to another and I was introduced to the (Minnesota) Dislocated Worker Program through CMJTS.
I have always had a job, always paid my way, and never wanted any charity. What I was offered through the dislocated worker program was a way to finish my education and apply for Licensure as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor without having to eat up all of my 401K.
Yes, I had to do the work but I didn’t have to do it alone. CMJTS offered encouragement and emotional and financial support. Finally, my education, internship, testing, and license application were finished. Now I needed to find a job. My weakness was resume writing and I was blessed with Janelle who is a resume wizard. Her skills gave me complete confidence with the documentation of my experience and let me focus on interviewing.
What a blessing it has been to be part of the dislocated worker program and my gratitude goes out to Michelle who started with me at CMJTS, and to Janelle who was with me until the end of the program and the beginning of my employment. I am now a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor at Teen Focus Recovery Center running the adult outpatient program. I humbly thank all involved. It took a village and I will be forever grateful.
Marty - CMJTS State Dislocated Worker Program Customer
“Most students get jobs working at fast food chains or hard labor and learn to resent them. I was able to find an amazing job that fit my schedule, skills, and interests. I also made connections I’ll have for the rest of my life. I learned important working habits such as being on time and respecting subordinates just as much as superiors – and had countless times to practice being patient. Ro made such an impact on my life, and I know that I wouldn’t be the same person I am today without the opportunity to work through CMJTS and meet the amazing people I did.”
Lukas applied for the information technology (IT) assistant position at Mora High School in 2014. Interviewers were impressed by his enthusiasm and intelligence, and he was hired for the position. Lukas was enrolled in the Minnesota Youth Program (MYP) so the Mora School District and CMJTS could split the cost of his hourly wages through the MYP Protégé Program. His work schedule was built into his school day and he provided IT assistance in the school’s media center to both faculty and students. Lukas learned work skills and additional technology skills through this experience. Both were reinforced by his mentor and supervisor Roberta “Ro” Haight.
Lukas concluded his protégé position and graduated from high school with honors on June 5, 2016. He will be starting college at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities in the fall. He plans to major in engineering.
“CMJTS offered me something I’d never expect to find in high school.”
Lukas - CMJTS Minnesota Youth Program Customer
“When I came here (CMJTS) my self-esteem was very small (making a tiny gesture with her thumb and index finger). Now I feel very strong. I feel like I can do this,”
Sharon gained many of the skills necessary to compete in today’s job search market, including interviewing skills she learned through participating in mock interviews with staff. She obtained a certificate of completion for the 360° Career Success Skills, A Soft Skills Focused Workshop, facilitated by CMJTS employment specialists. And, excitedly, Sharon is developing workplace skills through a volunteer commitment with CMJTS.
“I’m just one person (of many jobseekers) who has received this wonderful gift.”
Sharon - CMJTS Program Participant
Sharane also shared her story. Sharane worked for many years in the Willmar area. She had a wonderful job, with great pay, and it was very fulfilling. She eventually made the decision to relocate to a Wright County community.
“By the time I got here, everything I had saved to move with was dwindling.”
Sharane had worked as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) at one time in her life. Sharane needed to re-certify as a CNA, which brought her to CMJTS. She started a transitional job placement at Park View Care Center as a neighborhood concierge (candy striper). Through program services, including help with the cost of training and retesting, Sharane gained her certification and is currently working full-time as a CNA at Park View.
“Dignity is one thing I got by coming to CMJTS. I get to be human again. I’m working.”
Sharane - CMJTS Adult Program Customer