PPL Supports YES Northeast Certificate Program

PPL Donation

PPL recently made a $10,000 contribution to the YES (Your Employability Skills) Northeast Certificate Program. YES, which is administered by the Northeast PA Manufacturers & Employers Council (MAEC), is a 120-hour, 1-credit, year-round elective course that addresses the shortfall of basic skills that employers say are lacking in many job applicants. The course addresses 38 modules in all, including communication, team building, interview/resume/cover letter writing, completing a job application, personal finance, conflict resolution, and time management.

Headquartered in Allentown, PA, PPL Corporation (NYSE: PPL) is one of the largest companies in the U.S. utility sector. PPL's seven high-performing, award-winning utilities – including PPL Electric Utilities, which provides safe and reliable electric service in Pennsylvania -- serve 10 million customers in the U.S. and United Kingdom. The company and its 13,000 employees are dedicated to providing exceptional customer service and reliability and delivering superior value for shareowners. To learn more, visit www.pplweb.com.

Thank you for your support!

YES Alumnus Using Knowlege Learned in Program to Grow Business

In late April, as the Council was busy preparing for end of the year YES activities and our annual recognition breakfast, we got a welcome distraction. Former Blue Mountain YES alumni Connor Staskel and his friend ’Mystifier’ Jesse Dameron walked into our office promoting a show they had coming up at the Majestic Theater in Pottsville. Connor would be performing alongside Jesse as an Illusionist and Mind Reader.

It had been quite some time since we had last seen Connor –2012 to be exact. At that time, he was one of the few YES students that stepped forward and requested to speak at the YES breakfast. We both clearly remembered him, as it was noticeable back then that he was a gifted public speaker and communicator.

Since it’s not every day that a Mystifier, Illusionist, and Mind Reader combo comes walking into your office, we had to ask for a sample of their work. We quickly got one. “I want you to imagine a desert, stretching out as far as your eyes can see. In this desert is a cube. I want you to describe to describe the cube, what does it look like? How large is it? What is it made of? Where exactly is it?”

They continued on, asking more questions regarding the desert scene playing out in our minds before eventually revealing that each of our answers correlated to our subconscious and how we viewed the world around us. As if our minds weren’t blown away enough at that point, they then performed another trick where they asked a staff member to think about a name of someone close to them. It could’ve been family, friend, or even a co-worker. After a series of seemingly unrelated questions, they correctly guessed the exact name and the relationship to that person.

It was a very entertaining, yet rewarding experience for us watching a former YES graduate apply many of the skills he learned in the program to an unorthodox profession. It was shortly after that we decided to write this article, so we could learn more about Connor and what he’s currently doing.

While performing as an Illustionist and Mind Reader has been a great side act for Connor, he’s really making waves in his DJ and Lighting Services business. This business has been a dream of his since he was a teenager and was the driving force behind him enrolling in the YES program at Blue Mountain. “I originally enrolled in the YES program because I knew early in life that I wanted to pursue entrepreneurship,” he said. “I thought many of the topics could relate to personal motivation and drive in order to boost income.”

“Most of the topics taught in the program teach you how to act, work and perform professionally in a work environment. In addition to that, the program assists in improving your overall attitude in general. For me, I've used the information to build my personal DJ and lighting business.”

He was in good hands while enrolled at Blue Mountain, learning from both of the school’s long-time YES teachers Lisa Cook and Anita Imschweiler. The skills he learned from them in YES has allowed him to become successful. While taking the course and actively learning as a junior, he was already DJ-ing at prestigious venues such as the Best Western Eden Resort for the Eastern Lebanon County High School's Prom.

The rise upward has continued beyond graduation. Most recently, he’s performed at weddings, anniversary parties, corporate gatherings, and many other events such as the Moravian College Winter Formal held at the Green Pond Country Club.

Stories like Connor’s continue to re-enforce the fact that YES is for any student, regardless of their career path. The statistics reflect this idea. According to the 2014-2015 year end survey of YES students, health care led the way with 22% of students interested in pursuing a career in that field, followed by human services at 16% and business rounding out the top three at 15%. Other fields such as the trades, education, sciences and the arts following shortly after.

So, if you’re a student interested in becoming a nurse, a welder, an accountant, or even a DJ like Connor, YES has something to offer you, as it provides a solid base of knowledge that’s fit for any job. This is something that he noted in our interview.

“If a student is considering enrolling in the YES program, without a doubt, no thought should be necessary,” he said. “I highly recommend it no matter what their direction. The information taught in the program is essential for any career path. A huge thank you goes to the YES program, which has inspired me to achieve more success than ever imagined. I'm grateful!”

Keep up the great work Connor!

If you would like more information on Connor, be sure to check out his website at www.entertainerconnor.com.

Crestwood YES Students Gaining Competitive Advantage

Over the next decade there will be nearly three and a half million manufacturing jobs that need to be filled. It’s projected that over two million of those jobs are going to go unfilled due to the skills gap. This creates a trickledown effect as every job in manufacturing creates another two and a half jobs in local goods and services.

If the skills gap in this country is to be addressed, the time to act is now.

Crestwood High School has answered that call, offering their students a variety of programs that will better prepare them for the workforce. Among those is the YES (Your Employability Skills) Northeast Certificate Program. In this 120 hour 1-credit elective, students learn the intricacies of communications, health & safety, personal development, quality & technology, and teamwork. These modules better prepare them for a career in any industry.

In addition to the curriculum, they have the opportunity to hear from business professionals through speaking engagements and mock interviews. Each district also takes four different facility tours throughout the school year. On these tours, they are given a direct insight into the careers that are available, as well as the goods and services that are produced in their own backyards.

Since Crestwood began offering the program in 2008, 139 students have earned their certificate. In order to earn the certification, students must complete the 120 hours of coursework, earn passing scores on both the TABE (Test of Adult Basic Education) and the Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test, demonstrate an attendance of 95% or better, pass a 6-panel drug screen, and earn their high school diploma.

To further boost their student’s chances of succeeding in the workplace, Crestwood also has their students take the WorkKeys Assessment, which is a job skills assessment system that helps employers select, hire, train, develop, and retain a high-performance workforce. This series of tests measures foundational and soft skills and offers specialized assessments to target institutional needs.

Locally, the test is administered at all CareerLink offices. “If students are going to be adequately prepared for the workforce, they need to understand the requirements for jobs they are considering,” said PA CareerLink Administrator Christine Jensen. “WorkKeys helps students determine the skill levels required for various jobs. This assessment, coupled with the curriculum of the YES Program, helps ensure that individuals are ready for work and for life.”

As a testament to the teaching and guidance they received, all 18 students that earned their YES Certification also earned a certificate through WorkKeys with 2 students earning gold, 13 earning silver and 3 earning bronze.

"The opportunity to consistently participate in the Work Keys testing protocol affords Crestwood students the opportunity to add to their employment portfolio and compete for employment on a national scale," said Crestwood Principal Christopher Gegaris. "Over time Crestwood students have scored well above the norm demonstrating that a Crestwood graduate has the necessary skill set to gain employment and as a group are career ready.”

It’s no surprise that many local employers are utilizing both the YES Program and WorkKeys in their search to find a better workforce. Steve Vasko, Environmental and Security Manager at OMNOVA Solutions’ Auburn Plant, has been a longtime supporter of both initiatives. “As a manufacturer, one of the most challenging parts of our business is finding quality employees,” said Vasko. “We know that when a YES graduate interviews with us, they have been exposed to skills such as proper workplace etiquette, coworker interaction, and employer expectations that give them an advantage integrating into our workforce.”

Due to the success of the YES Program, Crestwood has decided to add an entire new section for the current school year. This year’s group of 35 is led by longtime YES teacher Lorri Goss and first year teacher Greg Myers.

In making the link between the YES Program and WorkKeys, it appears that Crestwood may have found the formula necessary to start combating the rising skills gap plaguing this country. If more area school districts take their lead, it will undoubtedly give the region a leg up when it comes to producing a quality workforce.