MRPC News Release

For immediate release
September 11, 2017

For more information, contact
Bonnie Prigge or Samantha Maddison at (573) 265-2993


Rehabilitation through Innovation helps Crawford County achieve certified work ready community designation
Offers opportunity to grow workforce


CRAWFORD COUNTY—All four Delta Regional Authority counties in the Meramec Region – Crawford, Dent, Phelps and Washington – are now Missouri Certified Work Ready Communities (CWRC), thanks to a workforce development grant from the Delta Regional Authority (DRA).

About two years ago, Meramec Community Enhancement Corporation (MCEC) and Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) approached DRA with a proposal to assist all four of the DRA counties within the Meramec Region become certified as Work Ready Communities. By utilizing the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC), certified communities are able to demonstrate a workforce with the education and foundational skills to succeed in the 21st Century. In order to do this, each county needed to target three types of workforce: emerging, current and transitioning, and garner business support. The grant, which MCEC received, paid for costs associated with WorkKeys testing and proctoring as well as job profiling to businesses to see what skills were necessary for a given position. Over the two-year timeframe, numerous high school and college students were tested; WorkKeys information was shared with employers, high school counselors as well as the workforce in general. One business participated in the job profiling, and a temporary testing site, complete with a proctor, was established to better accommodate those wanting to test.

By early May 2017, all but Crawford County were certified. Traditional methods of outreach—advertising, flyers, Facebook posts and news articles-- were not proving effective in reaching the transitioning workers—those who are unemployed, and this was especially true in Crawford County.

Through a partnership with MCEC, MRPC, Dr. Sean Siebert and Crawford County Sheriff Darin Layman, a unique and innovative program, called Rehabilitation through Innovation, was developed to provide Work Keys testing to unemployed individuals housed in the Crawford County jail who would soon be entering the workforce again.  By the end of June, 36 individuals in the Crawford County Jail completed testing, and 30 of them passed the test and were WorkKeys certified, which resulted in Crawford County achieving its goal of becoming a Missouri Certified Work Ready Community.

What made the program innovative was that it recognized that this transitioning workforce had some challenges that could make re-entry into the workforce more difficult and was designed to be more encompassing than a three-hour WorkKeys test. Rehabilitation through Innovation strived to create a culture of change and innovation within this unemployed group by improving their skill sets, helping them own their mistakes, enhancing their entrepreneurial mindset and connecting them with a strong support network that could further hone their skills to help them find employment, housing and transportation, once released. Helping them recognize the skills they have through the WorkKeys testing and connecting them to employment were important aspects of the program. Most employers in the Meramec Region are scrambling for employees as Missouri’s unemployment rate was 3.7 percent in June 2017 with Meramec counties ranging from 3.4 percent to 5.1 percent.

Rehabilitation through Innovation was a five-week course that culminated in WorkKeys testing and registration as a job seeker at a Missouri Career Center.  Each week covered a different topic.

“So the first week we talk about ideas, and essentially the message is that everyone has ideas,” Dr. Siebert said. “The second week we do what I call the personal SWOT analysis where everybody identifies their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. For them, it was helping them to understand you’re good at something and boosting the self-esteem of these individuals because I am seeing them at the absolute lowest point of their life. The third week we talk about ancestral baggage. That is the week that I really focus on them owning past mistakes and I just tell them who you were, who you are, and who you become are literally three different people in one life time if you choose it to be that way. The demons we have – the thing that makes us, that ground us, that remind us that we are no good, we can let go of that and focus on everything we did last week. The stuff we are good at – our strengths. And so we really focus on ancestral baggage and this concept of self-forgiveness and how you’ve got to forgive yourself. The fourth week we focus on fear of failure. These are the things they’re afraid of to make this change. Specifically look at what is keeping us from doing this. And then the last week is 100 percent the path. Ideas - we have them; strengths - we know what we are good at; demons - we understand why we used to be the way we were; fear of failure - addressing the things that we are not going to let stop us as we change to this new person and new mindset; and the path - the steps needed to be taken upon their release if they really want to change the direction of their life.”

Every week, Dr. Siebert would provide the participants with a page that included commentary on that week’s topic, three self-reflective questions and then closing commentary on what he’d like them to think about. Then he would provide two or three success stories directly linked to that week’s content. Unbeknownst to Dr. Siebert or the jail administration, the women in the program began circulating the information to the other women in their pod and began teaching them the curriculum; because of this, the other women were offered the opportunity to take the WorkKeys assessment, as well.

“So, we went in and instead of doing a full five-week course with that group I did power sessions, because they essentially already had the content. They just got the content from the other residents as opposed to standing in front of me. Every other lady that was in the pod at the time, all 18, were given the chance to take the test, and it was 100 percent – everyone of them took it,” Dr. Siebert said.

Dr. Siebert attributes the success of the program to the collaboration that linked resources and networks working toward a common goal that weren’t necessarily linked together prior to the program. He also attributes the success of the program to the individuals who participated in the program.

Dr. Siebert retells the story of one participant who bonded out of jail in the middle of the program and then returned to finish the classes and complete the WorkKeys assessment. A few days after completing the assessment, Dr. Siebert attended a job fair held on a Wednesday in Cuba, MO, with her where two companies interviewed her.

“She was the third overall person to get there, and she got there so early that they asked her which exhibitor she was with,” Dr. Siebert said. “So, she had an interview with one company and then she had an interview with a second company. The second company hired her that day at the job fair. They called on Thursday morning to make the official offer and Friday she went in to fill our her paperwork. On Sunday she came back to the jail for the final session of the five-week program. Then she started work at 8:00 a.m. Monday morning.”

On May 25, Sheriff Darin Layman was the keynote speaker at the annual banquet of Fort Good Sheppard and  Hannah’s Ranch, where this individual was staying. After his speech, Sheriff Layman called her onto the stage to present her with her bronze certificate.

“The entire crowd stood up and gave her a standing ovation,” Dr. Siebert said recounting the story the Sheriff shared with him. “And she told the sheriff that night that she had actually put in her two weeks notice for the first company that had hired her because another company had extended her a job opportunity, which would pay her several more dollars an hour and was a better fit for her. This young woman has been addicted to meth for more than a decade, and now she is on a different path and doing well.”

After the success of the Rehabilitation through Innovation program, the question had to be asked. What is Dr. Siebert trying to accomplish with these programs? 

“When people ask what are the adopt an innovator programs all about, I say I’m all about creating a culture of innovation and this is really what my work centers on and what this project absolutely was. It created a culture and it was a culture of success. All of us together created this culture where not only did the residents of the jail view themselves differently, but we as employers, we as a community are rethinking who these people are. We’ve already seen people do that, and that’s what is great. It really comes back to the culture because if only one side of it changes - it doesn’t work.”

The DRA is a federal-state partnership created by Congress in 2000 to help create jobs, build communities, and improve lives through strategic investments in economic development in 252 counties and parishes across eight states. Through the past 15 investment cycles of the DRA’s States Economic Development Assistance Program, DRA investments have leveraged nearly $3.5 billion in other public and private investment into projects that are helping to create and retain 37,000 jobs, train 7,300 for a 21st century workforce, and provide more than 66,000 families access to clean water and sewer services.  MRPC is the local DRA development district for Crawford, Dent, Phelps and Washington counties.

Formed in 1969, MRPC is a voluntary council of governments serving Crawford, Dent, Gasconade, Maries, Osage, Phelps, Pulaski and Washington counties and their respective cities. A professional staff of 23, directed by the MRPC board, offers technical assistance and services, such as grant preparation and administration, housing assistance, transportation planning, environmental planning, ordinance codification, business loans and other services to member communities.

To keep up with the latest MRPC news and events, visit the MRPC website at www.meramecregion.orgor on Facebook at www.facebook.com/meramecregion/.

 

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