It’s about getting a job and keeping it.
Joe Barbero’s job skills class at the Career Center is so good at teaching that principle that it was recognized as the best in the nation by the Jobs for America’s Graduates program.
“I believe this type of (class) really makes a difference,” Barbero said.
His Jobs for Montana’s Graduates class focuses on teaching students how to figure out what they want to do based on their interests, skills and intelligence. During the semester-long course, students cover topics such as building an effective resume, pulling off a good job interview and developing good communication skills with bosses and co-workers.
“Everything we do is pretty much hands-on,” Barbero said.
Students at the Career Center come from Billings School District 2’s three high schools — West, Senior and Skyview — and spend half the day there in various classes. The ones who find their way to Barbero’s classroom are usually students who have yet to decide where or even if they want to go to college. Most are still trying to decide what kind of career they want once they’re done with schooling.
“My sister is why I (took the class),” said Maggie Prindle, a senior from West High. “She had no idea what she wanted to do in college, and she highly recommended it. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.”
Classmates Anne Moorhead and Anthony Emery, also seniors from West, said they took the class on the advice of their guidance counselors. Senior Seth Hutzenbiler said he took the class so he could figure out now what he wanted to do with his life, rather than wasting time and money trying to figure it out in college.
Six weeks into the semester, they’re loving the class.
“It’s just a really cool class,” Emery said.
“It’s actually a class we can use,” Prindle said.
One of the class statistics that caught the attention of the Jobs for America’s Graduates program was the retention rate of underclassmen in Barbero’s program and the graduation rate of his seniors.
Every one of the sophomores or juniors in the class in 2008 came back for a second semester last year. And last year, 97.25 percent of the seniors graduated from high school.
As a result, a large number of past students regularly stop by to visit the class. So much so that his current students tease Barbero about it. But they also understand why the graduates come back.
“He’s awesome,” Hutzenbiler said of Barbero.
“You can trust him with anything,” Moorhead said.
To best tailor his curriculum to the needs of his students, Barbero talks to local businesses during the summer to find out what they want in their employees. He also keeps in contact with past students for one year after graduation to find out what has worked for them and what hasn’t.
“This is what we do,” Barbero said. “We give them the resources to be productive people.”
Contact Rob Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 657-1231.