Five years ago when I first started delivering job-ready training, I was working as a personal trainer manager at a gym and hadn’t been in the recruitment scene for at least 18 months. I was in the process of completing my HR degree but was very-much lacking confidence. My mate Ben got me a gig talking to a large group of adults looking to enter the hospitality and tourism industry on the gold coast and being slightly overwhelmed was an understatement. Five years later, I have delivered to hundreds of people ranging from school-leavers to people returning from retirement! Not all sessions have been enthralling but I believe people have walked away knowing more and feeling better about their chances.
I believe the key to running good employability programs is to lean into the group. My experiences recruiting and managing people has always helped with keeping content flowing with plenty of examples of successes and failures. I use examples of how I interviewed and what I looked for, as well as what my managers, colleagues and clients were looking for. Sometimes the problem with this approach is that it ends up just me talking at the group, yes I will throw in questions and activities to break up the content but I don’t think people got as involved.
When I have noticed a difference in the groups engagement is when I ask people to share their stories, frustrations and successes. There are so many unique stories that come from participants that it’s hard not to ask when talking to them about their careers. It also helps address and dispel existing biases or opinions that may be affecting the way that they apply for work. Some of the best workshops involved people sharing their stories and others getting involved in the discussion to find a solution with me facilitating the discussion. I could also use this information to tailor the content to be more suitable to the group. For example: I might get a few questions from a few members of the group about returning to work after being a stay-at-home parent. I can use this information to spend a little more time on how to write this in their resumes (You would be surprised how many people omit parenting/carers duties from their resumes!).
Here are 5 ways you could lean into your participants experiences effectively:
Structure – Keep structure to your lessons so you don’t deviate and you are providing them with practical information that they can use. A workbook, list of activities or class goals should be enough.
Allow time to meet each person individually – This provides you with a chance to review what they are doing and what their goal/s are. Many programs will do this prior to commencement/enrolment but treat the employment training as a separate process and review things like resumes and cover letters at a minimum.
Try not to let one person dominate group discussions – Easy to do when there is a quiet group! Work around the room for answers and do your best to involve as many people as possible with discussions.
Keep discussions ending on a positive note – I once made the mistake of asking a participant to open up about previous experiences of employment. I didn’t steer the conversation positively, and what resulted was a tirade over his previous employers, even after it ended, he couldn’t let it go he continued to bring it up throughout the day. I didn’t see him involved in the program after that.
Have an ‘Ice-breaker’ – I know a little cliche but this or a group activity will help before you jump into any discussions.
Finally, leaning into others experiences enriches the experience as a deliverer. Peoples stories, questions and concerns have provided me with a greater empathy, knowledge and overall satisfaction than if I strictly stuck to a curriculum.
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