Antonio Mitchell has big plans for his future.
The 20 year old wants to work with machines, wants to get into the landscaping business, wants to work in the carpet industry, and eventually, would love to work in the Walmart Distribution Center.
“I want to work hard and do the right thing,” said Antonio.
His dreams are becoming reality, thanks to the New Ventures Inc. off Fort Drive in LaGrange.
New Ventures is a work-based training program, that helps people with disabilities and barriers to employment. They then integrate the trainees into local businesses and industries. The staff teaches basic work skills, plus “soft skills,” which focuses on a potential employee’s behavior and attitude on the job. Characteristics such as: respect, good communication, cooperation, teamwork, organization, productivity, and a clean appearance.
“We can train people, but they also need these basic skills,” said Dave Miller, CEO of New Ventures. “These are foundational skills. Some of our people haven’t learned these, and it’s difficult in getting them to adopt these as their own. They learn to use them [basic skills and soft skills] when the supervisor is watching and when they’re somewhere else. That’s when we know they’re ready to go.”
Miller said the soft skill set was the result of a survey New Ventures sent out to business and industry leaders in the community. According to him, those are the characteristics employers look for when hiring new employees.
“We show them [the trainees] this is what is expected in the industry,” explained Miller. ” And we show them ‘this is where you are.’ So they know what to expect and we get them to that level.”
Miller said there’s about 100 trainees within the New Ventures Program. The group trains anywhere from three to nine months, “without fear of failure before moving on to an industry.” The trainees are paid during their time with New Ventures, and everything is personalized to each individual worker.
The trainees, like Antonio, spend a few hours on the “floor.” They learn trades like janitorial services, packing, taping, and sorting boxes and supplies, lawn care, working a forklift or other machinery, plus much more. Antonio works in one of the warehouses on the New Ventures campus capping industrial strength batteries for Duracell.
“When you’re working, it keeps you motivated,” Antonio said. ” I stay on the job. I stay ready to work.”
Miller said the entire process makes the trainee a well rounded, future employee.
“We’re teaching them work skills and work habits,” explained Miller. “We gain knowledge about their personal work skills and motor skills. We learn about their strengths and weaknesses through the work, and what that tells us about them.”
Mike Wilson, Director of Sales and Marketing with New Ventures, said trainees work under different supervisors to see how they interact, and learn with a variety of management styles. They also make items, such as messenger bags, pocketbooks, single and double wine bags, and tote bags from recycled yarn waste. New Ventures plans on putting those products on the market in July.
Class work must be completed too.
“They go into a classroom at 7 am, because that’s when most jobs start,” explained Miller. “If someone is tardy, we might do a little personal counseling. It’s meddling a little bit, but it’s teaching them what they have to do. We also observe them during break and lunch time. Are they coming back from break on time? We ask them verbally, but also look at their actions.”
Wilson said the program works with local companies such as Interface Flor LLC, Duracell Inc, Kaydon Custom Filtration Corporation, the Walmart Distribution Center, and many more. The goal is to integrate the trainees into a temporary or permanent working position within the businesses. Robby Burch, Director of Customer Service with Interface Flor, said the company is a big supporter of New Ventures and regularly uses them when new opportunities pop up within their industry.
“Our mission is becoming a sustainable company,” explained Burch. “Finding a partner in the community that provides us, not just with a product, but the skills and training too, is important to us. New Ventures is a great partner to do business with, because they’re willing to expand and bring in resources very quickly, which is also important to us.”
Wilson and Miller described New Ventures as an “under utilized asset that can pay big benefits.” Both said they *don’t* be the best kept secret in Troup County.
“I’d like to see us grow,” said Wilson. ” Not just in LaGrange, but in the region.”
For Antonio, it means future jobs. Everything he accomplishes at New Ventures is put on to a resume, for potential employers to look at.
“You got to be ready,” he said. “It keeps me motivated.”
For more information about New Ventures, call (706) 882-5401 or visit their web site at www.newventures.org.