“We’ve condensed three weeks of training into an intensive one-week program,” Trainer and Curriculum Coordinator Michael Jones tells Job Readiness participants on the first day of class. To receive a certificate of completion from the Our Daily Bread Employment Center program, no absences are allowed and late arrivals won’t gain entry. These and other more stringent requirements must be met to complete the class and to give graduates a competitive edge in finding and keeping a job.

“Word on the street is that this is a good program that works,” says Cecilia Soto who wants a cashier or custodial job. Eric Byrd, who lost his job as a machine operator more than a year ago, echoed the sentiment. “I had two friends who came to the class and got a job within a month,” he says.

Jones promises that those who apply what they’ve learned will beat out 70 percent of other job applicants.

An exercise requiring participants to list their marketable skills nets two rewards: confidence levels rise as overlooked attributes are uncovered and the findings are used to create a handwritten resume this is turned in for critiquing.

Guidelines are given for the content and formatting of a professional resume and cover letter. “Remember that a cover letter is your 30-second elevator speech that entices the employer to read your resume,” says Jones. Tailoring the resume to the job is stressed with Jones’ example of using different bait to catch different fish. To get participants started, the Center’s computer lab is made available throughout the week. A submitted typed resume and cover letter are required to graduate from the program.

The dos and don’ts of interviewing are also discussed. “Think of an interview as a stage play,” says Jones. “Actors have practiced their scripted answers and you should too.” Tips to set one’s self apart from other applicants include wearing business attire, making eye contact with a firm handshake, being knowledgeable of the company, and having two questions to ask the employer at the end of the interview.

Ex-offenders are told to address their past incarceration head on and not wait for the employer to bring it up. “Emphasize what you have done to improve your life since then and what you have to offer,” says Jones. Employers who were asked what they want to hear from ex-offenders listed acceptance of responsibility, redemption, and examples of productivity. Participants are also encouraged to make use of employer incentives for hiring such as the Work Opportunity Tax Credit that reduces an employer’s federal income tax by $2,400 per employee; the Federal Bond Program that insures employers against stolen property; and the Long-Term Employment of Ex-Offenders Tax Credit Program that gives employers a $3,000 tax credit for a two-year employment of an ex-offender.

A list of the area’s largest employers, Internet job sites, and training programs provide participants with viable information.

On Friday, most graduates come dressed for success in business attire. As names are called, graduates come forward to accept certificates and a flash drive to store their resumes and cover letters.

Among well wishers at the graduation is Shane Ryan, a graduate of Class 59, who is there to cheer on her mother, Linda Ryan. It was Shane’s success in finding a job as a certified nursing assist that convinced Linda to enroll.

Marine veteran Eric Brown, one of many participants who came forward to address the class, felt the time was well spent, stating, “This gave me the ammunition to talk about what I can do.”

Corey Brown, who is looking for a job in warehousing, said, “I wish I had come here a few months ago before I blew a couple of interviews.”

The week after graduation, graduates meet each Wednesday with an assigned job placement manager until a job is found. Support for the graduate continues after job placement to ensure job retention.