“We are each the CEOs of our own lives.”

This statement captures the essence of lessons learned through a new professional training program at Minnesota Diversified Industries. The first graduates of Work Skills 101 celebrated new skills and goals during a presentation at MDI’s Cohasset location Tuesday.

Dr. Michael Raich, representing the MDI Board of Directors, introduced the program before a gathering of company leadership, employees and community partners. Raich explained that support to provide the 13 training sessions this spring for 10 participants was provided, in part, by Northland Foundation, U.S. Bank, and donors and sponsors of MDI’s Ability Bash. Because of the success of the pilot, Raich announced that MDI wishes to continue the program and provide the training to more participants.

Leading the training session was Paula Frings of Maven Perspectives, LLC. The participants were recruited for the pilot program and represented a cross section of employees from both MDI and Hired Hands, an affiliate of MDI.

Driven by a vision to provide meaningful employment opportunities for people with disabilities, MDI and Hired Hands hire people with and without disabilities to work side-by-side. Last year, MDI opened a newly-renovated facility in Cohasset for recycling and plastics conversion business. This new facility also provides improved working conditions for the Hired Hands program.

Months of discussion on workforce development produced the curriculum for Work Skills 101, explained Raich. MDI leadership realized that training would lead to strengthened professional and technical skills. It was decided that special focus should be on professional skills, or soft skills. This would contribute to the success of both the company and the individual as those skills follow a person through life, said Raich.

Working with Frings in brainstorming ideas for Work Skills 101, “We talked about the need to bring awareness to the community that people employed here can be employed elsewhere in the community,” said Frings.

With the first graduates in the front row of Tuesday’s presentation event, Frings listed some of the lessons gained through the training program such as communication, attitude, teamwork, attendance, interview tips, leadership, wellness, coping mechanisms and more. Key take-aways for the pilot participants were self-discipline and self-confidence. This was evident in personal introductions by each individual. Courageously, they stood in front of the crowd and listed their assets and SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time specific) goals.

These goals range from becoming more active within the community and taking constructive criticism with a grain of salt to getting trained on the hand welder and arriving to work earlier each day.

Beyond the personal rewards of the program, benefits to the company and community include a stronger, more productive team with increased accountability and teamwork toward one mission; and more visible contributions and understanding of people with disabilities.

“Disabilities to me is a hard word, because everyone has different abilities,” commented Frings. “Everything in Work Skills 101 is tied to the mission of MDI.”

MDI is actively looking for sponsors to continue the Work Skills 101 program for more employees from all the company’s locations, in Cohasset, Grand Rapids, Hibbing, and St. Paul.

More information about MDI and Work Skills 101, is found online at www.mdi.org or by calling the main office in St. Paul at 651-999-8200.

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