On Feb. 12, twenty-six students gathered in Rancho Cotate High School’s college and career center to accept their “Sonoma County Work Ready Certificates,” an acknowledgement of successfully completing a quarter-long program that taught the youth what they needed to know to enter the workforce.
The Work Readiness Certification, a program facilitated through the Sonoma County Office of Education, is designed to teach students “soft skills” that businesses require, and teach them everything including how to fill out a job application, how to write a resume and obtain reference letters and how to properly shake hands and make eye contact.
“This is the second year my class has offered it,” says Jessica Holman, who teaches hospitality, tourism and recreation at Rancho Cotate High School. “It’s offered through the CTE, Career and Technical Education, courses at Rancho. Some of the other Sonoma County high schools also offer it but we’ve been implementing it quite a bit. The CTE department has chosen it to be part of the curriculum. The county office of education, through the CTE group, has determined that businesses feel that kids don’t have enough soft skills these days – the handshakes, the eye contact, the smiling, the customer service kind of skills. They figured if they rolled that into a certificate more kids would be ready for the workplace in an entry-level position.”
Students not only have to complete the program but are also tested and evaluated on their performance by businesses in the community. Only once they are determined to be work-ready are they awarded their certificates. Receiving the certificate gives those students a distinct advantage when applying for jobs.
“Out of my 60 kids, 26 of them were eligible for the interview,” says Holman. “All their paperwork in their portfolio turned out, they got enough letters of recommendation and they were signed off by a work ready supervisor who evaluated their professionalism. What SCOE does is set up mock interviews. They take it one step further.”
All 26 of Holman’s students completed an interview. Lisa Orloff, the Executive Director of the Rohnert Park chamber of commerce coordinated the interviews with the general manager for Red Lobster in Rohnert Park.
“They all passed!” says Holman proudly. “They all did well, had enough confidence and enough answers to [the interviewer’s] questions. Because of that, they earned the certificate.”
Students in any of the CTE courses at Rancho can participate in the Work Ready certification program. Other CTE courses offered at Rancho include fashion design, engineering, woodworking, digital photography, game design, coding, film and video production, and business, among others.
“I like that we got the opportunity to do this,” says Emily Lomeli, one of the students who successfully completed the program. “I’m grateful that we could do this because it will help us in the future.”