Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Good Works


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Doers of Good Works

Be doers and act on what you hear
(James 1:22)

We are raising an amazing son. We take great pride in exercising our parental bragging rights. Here’s the backstory:  Yesterday was the first mentoring session of #CodeRoadClub, so my husband and son attended with me in support. While the program targets young women, as a mom, I saw it as great opportunity for Q to gain exposure to careers in technology. To learn more about women in Memphis, Nairobi, Nashville, and Toronto meeting weekly in a live classroom for educational, cultural, and social exchanges, visit http://www.memphisworks.com/coderoadclub
or follow us as I live tweet on Saturdays from @LTR_Latrobe_Mfg to @CodeRoadClub.

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry…life happened and we began the day with a few minor technical difficulties that were quickly overcome by a remarkable support team from all four locations. I privately joke that I live with #ProblemSolver #1 and #2, so in their true nature, their immediate response was to jump in to fix the technology fails. While the girls from different parts of the world took turns introducing themselves and learning valuable information about the importance of networking and demonstrating abilities, my son was purposely listening and looking for opportunities for improvement. When the program ended, he quietly sent me a text that he had “a few ideas to help this work a little better.” Then he proceeded to network by starting a conversation with one of the coders/presenters who recommended building solutions that solve problems.

I woke up this morning to find a professional email from my fifteen year old son that laid out his suggestions for improving the technical production of future sessions. With no edits, I forwarded his email to Mary Hayes, CEO of Engage Learning Systems, and the braintrust behind #CodeRoadClub. She responded with a prompt thank you note to Q, with an offer for him to attend next week’s session as a part of the tech support team, lol! Of course, he accepted!!!

When I wrote about #CSforall in last week’s blog post, I knew that I would begin mentoring with the #CodeRoadClub as my contribution for exposing local young women to this aspect of STEM education. What I did not anticipate was how this act might impact or benefit my own son.  Nor did I expect his level of engagement or participation or excitement about a Saturday morning project.  As a parent, I am most proud that instead of criticizing imperfections in a process, he took professional actions to offer solutions to make something good better. He’s a doer. How are you incorporating technology into your educational, cultural, or service projects? Let us know by commenting or sending an email to latanyua.robinson@gmail.com. If you like this post and want to catch up on some of my previous discussions, please visit the full Purposed Work blog at http://ltr-latrobe-mfg.blogspot.com/.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

BASIC Good Works

In the beginning was the Word…
(John 1:1)

January 30, 2016 for me will be one those days committed to memory: Where we you when you heard the announcement from the White House on a specific initiative to prepare the next generation of technology leaders? In his weekly address, the President announced plans for a $4 billion investment, stating: We have to make sure all our kids are equipped for the jobs of the future. (To view the full statement about Computer Science for All, #CSforAll, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sy-iY3-otk4).

The meaning and application of computer science has transformed since my first introduction in the 80s. When I signed up for my first computer class, I did not fully understand what that meant. Keep in mind; this was prior to the days of the majority of families in our community having a home computer. I do not remember touching a computer until I was in high school, so I thought the course I signed up for was to teach me the basic skills of using a computer. I had no idea that BASIC was a programming language that I was expected to learn to solve problems.

Through high school and college, I managed to push through languages foreign to me like BASIC, FORTRAN, COBOL, and TURBO C because they were required courses for my engineering major. I refer to them as foreign languages because although I mastered writing IF/THEN/ELSE statements (with and without syntax errors), the problems we were solving had no real life application in my real world experiences. After gaining work experience, I began to understand the relationship and dependence on foundational computer science programming:

Hierarchy of Programming Languages

In my current workforce readiness initiatives, I often get pushback from parents and elders for suggesting that kids enroll in manufacturing or industrial programs of study. For them, manufacturing has a connotation of being a laborer, without regard for the technology required for process or product improvement. What I have found is a lack of awareness of the computer science basics necessary throughout the value chain of machining or automation or robotics, etc.  Just as in the beginning was the Word, the beginning of value creation rests on equipping our next generation of technology leaders to solve problems using computer science. How will your community participate in #CSforall?  Let us know by commenting or sending an email to latanyua.robinson@gmail.com. If you like this post and want to catch up on some of my previous discussions, please visit the full Purposed Work blog at http://ltr-latrobe-mfg.blogspot.com/.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Speaking of Good Works

…speak those things which are not, as though they were…
(Romans 4:17)

I am a firm believer that when you speak your desires into the universe, if they align with God Will, He begins to move things around in your favor. Two years ago, I challenged our son to participate in a 5k event with me and reminded him of the purpose of the races, to train to endure and complete. (For the entire blog post, read http://ltr-latrobe-mfg.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-light-of-good-works.html). Fast forward to now:  not only has every Saturday of this month been consumed with charity races, he currently runs for his high school cross country team. In fact, he’s at a midweek race in Batesville as I type this.

The words that resonate for me are to train to endure and complete. That’s how I am feeling these days about the workforce preparedness efforts in this region. Getting to the desired outcome is a marathon and not a sprint. If the work were easy, the problem would have been solved years ago. The more I learn, the more I see the degrees of systemic institutional and generational layers that must be penetrated.

The funny thing for me is that I find myself stepping out of my comfort zone of operating as process driven and leaning on my relational skills. For a self-proclaimed non-people person, no one could have ever impressed upon me that one day, I would be consumed by community relation activities and that my motivation could be summed up by this meme: I am not in this work for the income. I do this work for the OUTCOME…changing lives. The marathon analogy (to train to endure and complete) holds true if we have any hope of changing the systems and processes most impacting our desired outcomes of our workforce development efforts.

I wondered how I got to this place and started to examine my actions. I believe in the power of I AM. It is no coincidence that about two years ago, I began a morning routine of reciting a list decrees that I speak over my life. One of them is that I decree that I AM a community servant. In ways that I never imagined, I am witnessing God move some things around and open so many doors that I never knew existed.  What are you speaking over your life and your purposed work? What is your expected outcome? Feel free to comment or send me an email to latanyua.robinson@gmail.com. If you like this post and want to catch up on some of my previous discussions, please visit the full Purposed Work blog at http://ltr-latrobe-mfg.blogspot.com/.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Access to Good Works

…for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit…
(Ephesians 2:18)

I am learning the hard way to choose my words carefully: People hear what they want to hear. I made the mistake of making a general statement, that when heard by someone who did not want to receive the message, applied one broad statement to a whole population. My takeaway is that people often forget that they benefit and have access to opportunities simply because they were born or live under what society has normalized.

The word privilege sometimes has a negative connotation. The reality is that some groups do have certain advantages from membership in a specific social class. Personally, if I remove the most well-known thoughts of privilege (sex and race), in America, I benefit because I am

Right handed vs. left handed
Married vs. single / divorced
Christian vs. all other religions
Heterosexual vs. LBGPQA
Children vs. childless
Formally educated vs. informal
English speaking vs. other languages
Employed vs. unemployed
Aged +18<65 vs. under 18 or over 65
Full able body vs. differently-able body
To learn more, visit http://jpfarr.com/presentations/

Workforce is a new skill for me. My experience in job training was derived from internal employer sponsored programs. I am gaining a crash course in diversity and perspectives on how people gain access to alternative training programs available to the general job-seeking public. From the crowd who does not realize how privilege grants them access, I often hear spiteful comments about people looking for “free stuff.” The reality is that prospects looking to re-tool or re-train are not looking for a “handout, but a hand up,” to the same opportunities available to the privileged class.

I tend to view processes from my perspective and personal experiences, without thinking of access from the perspective of those who do not share the same privileges that I have. I am looking for a paradigm shift in how to help more people gain access to available training. In an attempt to produce better outcomes from our programs, I challenged myself to consider how to overcome some process obstacles from the perspective of my non-privileged status. For example, how could I find out about training opportunities if I did not have home Wi-Fi, or access to the internet, or a computer? Or how could I apply for a job if the applications (paper or electronic) are available in English only? Or how would I perform on a mechanical agility test if I were left handed?

My personal learning in workforce development has become a humbling experiment in not projecting my experiences onto anyone else. As hard or different as I thought my journey has been, I never realized how much access and privilege I have had simply because of membership into specific social classes. How are you improving access to training and job opportunities for the diverse populations in your community? Feel free to comment or send me an email to latanyua.robinson@gmail.com. If you like this post and want to catch up on some of my previous discussions, please visit the full Purposed Work blog at http://ltr-latrobe-mfg.blogspot.com/.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Profit for Good Works

For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world 
and loses or forfeits himself?
(Luke 9:25)

I have a hard time believing that an organization can operate as profit motivated AND be genuinely committed to helping people and changing lives. As the saying goes, you cannot serve two masters. Devotion to one will take priority over the other because of human nature. If you disagree, I challenge you to educate me on an organization that has managed to do both, effectively helping the intended benefactors.

My experiences in workforce readiness have exposed me to a lot of generational poverty phenomena that I never knew existed. I thought that since I grew up poor, I had a baseline understanding of “the struggle,” that would allow my current middle class situation to be a bridge to inspire others of what they too could achieve. Wrong! My first mistake was not having a real understanding of the differences between poor and poverty. I thought we were poor because although my parents worked, there was never enough to cover our wants, so we always heard our parents praying for us to do/have better (education, jobs, homes, etc). The difference is that people living in poverty do not have the luxury to hope for tomorrow because they are trying to overcome basic needs (food, clothes, shelter, etc.) today. For a better explanation, visit http://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-poor-and-vs-poverty-and-vs-scarcity/.

Living in the mid-south, I have become mindful of the economy driven by the poverty industry. I started paying attention after I was sarcastically informed that while agriculture and transportation/distribution are both leading industries, a close third is the poverty industry. While many people are quick to point out the profit margins from payday lenders, pawn shops, casinos, and lotteries, has any one questioned the motivation of many of the so-called not-for-profit organizations? In my opinion, I have seen a lot of government funded programs, written on the back of poor people, where the resources are not directly disseminated to the intended benefactors.

As I go about my purposed work, I find myself getting frustrated in trying to do the right things in workforce preparedness, but constantly battling bureaucracy that does nothing to help overcome generational poverty dynamics. This work is not as simple as merely providing training and helping people to find good works, or better jobs. There is a societal disruption out there waiting to be examined and executed. Can you help me to discover it? So I ask the same question that I posed earlier. Are there any examples of profit motivated companies genuinely affecting change to pull whole communities out of poverty? Feel free to comment or send me an email to latanyua.robinson@gmail.com. If you like this post and want to catch up on some of my previous discussions, please visit the full Purposed Work blog at http://ltr-latrobe-mfg.blogspot.com/.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Reconnect to Good Works

Most of my professional career, I have benefited from hiring students from tech schools, without actually visiting one. For the past two decades, many of the industrial technicians or maintenance personnel were graduates of programs like Ivy Tech, Augusta Tech, or Rosedale Tech. While participating in Leadership Beaumont, I briefly toured the welding program at Lamar Institute of Technology. Not until I became actively involved in workforce readiness did I take the time to get a holistic view of what today’s tech schools offer. This is not your 80s variety vocational training program…
Growing up, the closest post-secondary school in the county was the Rice Belt Technical Institute. The only people that I personally knew went for secretarial training. None of the graduates from my family ever gained employment using those skills, so I never even considered the school as an option for me.
Fast-forward to my first tour of modern-day workforce development training and I visited one of the local Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) campuses. The purpose of the visit was to understand the regional best practice for effective adult education that leads to real employment and advancement opportunities. The full-time programs range from twelve to twenty months to complete. The format is meant to simulate an actual workday, so students receive both classroom and hands on training, often dressed in uniformed attire.

The initial topic of connection that struck me was the cost. Between financial aid, the Tennessee Reconnect (http://tnreconnect.gov/), or the Tennessee Promise (http://tnpromise.gov/), most students can complete these program without building up long term debt related to loans. This model proves that retraining efforts are within reach for adults willing to commit the time to earn the certifications.
Walking through the various programs, another area of connection was the engagement of the instructors. Each was working alongside the students, demonstrating applied knowledge of the subject. When we walked through the diesel maintenance shop, the instructor was underneath the frame, but slid out to share information about student successes, employment opportunities, salaries, and his program’s wait list (there is a huge demand for his graduates, a testament to the workmanship he is instilling in his students). Unique to the TCAT model, instructors are incentivized by their program placement rates.
TCAT offers a wide range of technical career programs. To learn the details of the full-time courses offered in the Memphis area, visit http://tcatmemphis.edu/fulltime-programs. I suggest exploring the program details to learn about the contact hours, potential certifications granted, and most importantly, the gainful employment information. Since I was so impressed by the diesel technology program, here are the linked examples of the kind of data you will find:
Be sure to click on the red consumer information tab, which provides details about the SOC Code, program success rates, and job placement rates. A 92% placement rate is best-in-class in my book!
I know the quality of the students and the value of this type of education from a professional perspective. As a parent, a real test for me will be how I feel about technical training programs personally if our son comes home and informs us that he has chosen this route to pursue his career goals, rather than going to a four-year college. What are your thoughts on the career opportunities afforded from technical certification programs? Feel free to comment or send me an email to latanyua.robinson@gmail.com. If you like this post and want to catch up on some of my previous discussions, please visit the full Purposed Work blog at http://ltr-latrobe-mfg.blogspot.com/.