The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

October 10, 2013

Program puts workers on the right track

Eight-week program features classroom training, hands-on experience at area businesses


"In the end, what it really gives them is confidence."

MRCI serves people with disabilities or disadvantages with clients working at MRCI-operated production facilities or at area businesses. MRCI employees, for example, package or assemble everything from cans of chicken to toys for a wide variety of companies.

Track to Success aims to give people a better shot at landing a permanent job in the community.

The classes cover things like customer service, communication skills, speaking in front of groups, hygiene and health, handling a checking account and job-search skills.

Rivers said focus is also put on "soft skills," like body language, greeting people and understanding that people have different personalities.

While they are in the classroom each morning of the week, students go to participating area businesses in the afternoons to get some hands-on experience. A broad array of local businesses work with MRCI, from Hy-Vee, Culvers and Lowe's to thrift stores, repair shops and bus companies.

Once students graduate from the program Rivers works with them to apply for specific jobs. "I talk to them about what kind of jobs they'd be interested in and have the skills for and then I look for jobs that match their skills and abilities."

When a specific open job is identified, Rivers calls the business and explains the Track to Success story and seeks an interview for the graduate. Rivers tags along for the job interview.

Of the first six graduating classes, Rivers has seen 64 percent of graduates hired by businesses in the community.

Each class has about six to eight students who are referred for the Tracks to Success program by the state Services for the Blind and Minnesota Vocational Rehabilitation Services.

While in the Track to Success program, Poss interned at Land to Air. After graduating, Mekalson hired her. "She picks things up very quickly, she adapts very well. Our call load is crazy. She really handles it well," he said.

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