Real Life Stories of SRC's Plus 50 Successes
Cook Company Success Stories:
The Cook Companies in Canton, Illinois utilize the Spoon River College Office of Community Outreach for all of their pre-employment testing and screening services. The process starts with potential applicants signing up for KeyTrain, the practice site furnished by ACT to prepare for WorkKeys tests. Once applicants feel prepared to take the WorkKeys tests, they are scheduled for a testing date with SRC. The day of testing starts with each tester being signed up for the resources of Illinois workNet, including skills and interest profilers, articles on preparing for interviews, etc. and a job search function that searches by location or job type. Applicants are then tested on three WorkKeys tests on the computer: Applied Math, Locating Information, and Reading for Information, and scores are presented to applicants at the time of testing. A minimum score of 3 must be achieved for applicants to continue in the testing process. After a brief lunch break, applicants return and watch the video Observation portion of the test. The next step is a set of manual dexterity tests, followed by completion of the Cook application. A complete packet of information is submitted to Denise Kirgan, HR Director of the Cook Companies, located in Canton, Illinois. The testing procedure is the same whether candidates are interested in Cook Medical, the Canton Harvester Inn, or the Cook Polymer Technology plant.
According to Kirgan, since July 1, 2011, Cook has hired 54 people at Cook Medical; 8 people for the Cook Polymer Technology plant and 2 people at the Harvester Inn. Starting wages at the company went from $8.90 in July to $9.40 as of January 1, 2012. All jobs are computer-related in some way.
Kirgan credits the DCEO grant and Spoon River College for creating opportunities for area residents. She states that without the grant, “We wouldn’t be hiring from this area. We would have to seek other entities, like ICC and Carl Sandburg, and send people away. Through the grant, Spoon River College can locally facilitate the testing needed to staff our facilities. This allows us to hire local candidates and consider them first.” In addition, the City of Canton has chosen to pay the WorkKeys testing fees to ACT through city TIF funds in order to help local residents get jobs.
Kirgan also states that KeyTrain and WorkKeys have helped during the hiring process. “They are an absolute requirement to hire anyone as spelled out in our Procedure Manual: Basic math, attention to detail, all of the testing required. The results allow us to place candidates appropriately within job classes.”
Successes of this process are not only in the business end of the spectrum. Kirgan shared a story of one of their employees. “One of our first 30 hires when we opened was a single mom who had spent the majority of her adult life in public housing. She was able to take KeyTrain and WorkKeys for free and locally because of the grant. She has now secured a position and has purchased her first home in our community.”
One way that Denise meets candidates for positions is through the job fairs that Spoon River College is able to offer twice a year, in conjunction with the YWCA and CareerLink. “At the job fair, I meet people and send them to the college for testing. They are unsure about testing, but when I call them for an interview, they are so excited about the opportunity! For approximately 45-50% of our employees, when they started with us they received an increase in pay. Many came from places like gas stations, long term care, waitressing… They gained their self-respect because they were able to do well in KeyTrain and WorkKeys.”
A personal success story is that of local resident Jerry Bredeman. Jerry was unemployed and had gotten pretty discouraged with job prospects, especially being able to stay in the Canton area. He saw a notice in the local newspaper for testing for the Cook companies and decided to give it a try. He was hesitant with the all-day testing process, but had the faith to come to Spoon River College and sign up. Jerry states, “I owe everything basically to you folks. The training was spot on, and was excellent information. Your positive attitude instantly impressed me and gave me the positive energy to get into the workforce.” Jerry also noted that the process was “perfect,” stating that he attended testing, then a pre-job fair workshop, and then the job fair. “Shortly after testing, I attended a workshop, and I was impressed with the information presented about interviewing. Then I attended the job fair at the park. It all was such perfect timing, and well planned and laid out. I got to meet Denise and she could put a face with my application. She mentioned a position open for a general maintenance person, which led to my interview. I had four different interviews and was hired the same day,” Jerry states. He is now in charge of the residential and commercial needs of the Randolph building, the Lewis building, the entire Fulton Square shopping properties, and the Canton Harvester Inn hotel. Kirgan adds, “Within less than a year, he (Jerry) has already moved into a salaried position based on his personality and skills.”
In the upcoming year, Cook anticipates hiring 50-60 more employees for the Cook Medical plant; 50-55 at the Cook Polymer Technology plant; and replacing those lost by any turnover at the Harvester Inn. All of this is made possible by the partnership of grant funding from the DCEO, TIF funds from the City of Canton, and the testing process provided by the Spoon River College Office of Community Outreach.
Past success stories...