Published August 13, 2019
In an effort to boost retention in the region’s hospitality sector, a new grant through the Wal-Mart corporation has awarded Dodge City Community College $65,000 to help upskill the industry’s employees.
The Acceleration Opportunity: Kansas @ Work program (AO-K@Work) is delivered in partnership with retail and service-sector employers with the goal of building awareness of worker and employer needs, and generating engaging staff development to retain a more skilled workforce.
The grant effort through DC3 is aimed at reducing the turnover rate of hospitality and service industry workers – a major concern for a community dependent in large part upon tourism. Nationally, turnover in hospitality is upwards of 70 percent.
The college is partnering with United Wireless Arena and Boothill Casino to upskill their employees’ customer service traits.
“We knew from speaking to employers that there is a definite need,” said Ryan Ausmus, dean of Workforce Development.
The DC3 programs will be run through the college’s Adult Learning Center, but the classes will be held on-site, in order to facilitate participation.
Lisa Killion, event manager at United Wireless, said many of her employees are part-time, some working only once or twice a month.
“We struggle with retention and finding employees with adequate customer service skills,” Killion said. That’s what was interesting about this grant. It helps us meet the challenge of keeping valuable employees.”
“We want to make sure that all of their employees are able to take part,” Brandi Ferguson, ALC director, said, “so we take the training to the employer. That way nobody has to make a special trip anywhere else, or come during their off hours.”
Ferguson and ALC staff met with officials at United Wireless and the casino to assess their needs and the needs of employees.
The main focus of the ALC training is soft skills, or people skills – things like communication, problem solving, teamwork, and interpersonal skills. Through this work, additional reading, writing and math skills are expected to be developed … all of which should lead to a more well-rounded employee who is more apt to stay on.
“There’s a huge need for this is our community,” Ausmus said. “Businesses hiring workers want them to be able to work with people. They need people who know how to interact with customers.
“These employers spend thousands of dollars to train an employee,” Ferguson said. “We have created a customized, contextualized curriculum for these employers’ needs. Everything we are doing has been based on what our employers have requested.”
Classes begin in September. Students will spend a minimum of 40 hours in the classes over several weeks.
Workers will take the TABE (Tests of Adult Basic Education) prior to their participation, in order to assess their skills and needs.
“This is a real opportunity to improve areas that are difficult to learn in a normal education setting,” Ferguson said. She said the training not only helps to retain employees, but can also add skills needed for certain promotions.
Ausmus said the grant is a valuable resource to help the college meet its mission of providing for the workforce needs of our area.
“Businesses have expressed a need for this type of training and we are proud to be able to provide that,” Ausmus sad.
By Scott Edger