Columbus Urban League: The Program Improvement Story
The Columbus Urban League’s Education Technology and Training Department has recently undergone a facial. What started out for the M.O.S.T (Marketable Office Skills & Training) program was a tedious, monotonous program where many students enrolling in the program spent approximately 6 hours completing paperwork before beginning classes.
Equipped for the Future’s continuous improvement plan was introduced to the Columbus Urban League in the early spring of 2005,with its ideologies of what adults need to know and be able to do in order to carry out their roles and responsibilities as workers, parents, family members, citizens and community members. The staff of the M.O.S.T program was able to align itself to the concept of participants as Lifelong Learners. This brought the ideal to life that as adults we are constantly learning, even if it is unintentional.
The approach for continuous improvement has been a learning experience from the perspective of dissecting a program and implementing features that would surely be beneficial to adults. For example, the objective for the M.O.S.T program is to increase the number of African American males, female householders and other at-risk minorities participating in activities to achieve economic self-sufficiency. Moreover, to achieve this self-sufficiency does not only mean monetary gain; it is being or becoming responsible workers, parents, family members, citizens and community members. Therefore, we were proficient in incorporating the EFF standards.
Of the changes that have been put into practice, one that is most significant for staff and adult students is the reduction of paperwork. Initially, enrolling into the M.O.S.T. program was, as stated above, a tedious process; this process would take some students literally hours and days to complete (and this did not include the assessment process). We had to devise a better way to get the information that we needed for the Columbus Urban League and the pertinent information that had to be given to our funder. Therefore, we narrowed the application process to the information that was essential to the funder, and created a process to extract the information from the application and add it to the database that will be needed for Columbus Urban League documentation. This in turn has cut the application process in half! Doing so has made better time for pre-tests or assessments needed to measure where students are.
Another feature that was employed was part of the 16 EFF standards. We wanted to really focus on Communication Skills as well as Interpersonal Skills. Students continually work on their communication skills throughout the five week cycles of classes by doing classroom presentations and doing a “30 second me”, where all students every morning have to stand up and say positive things about themselves and how they will have a positive day. Communication skills are an essential proponent of all the 16 standards because they will aid in achieving Decision-Making Skills, Interpersonal skills and Lifelong Learning skills. “Interpersonal Skills” is also an important category of standards used by our adult learners. The current staff of the M.O.S.T. program includes trained case managers to assist students in conflict resolution, instructing students to be able to diffuse anger, give appropriate feedback, and use non-threatening body language. These changes for the M.O.S.T program have been essential for the students.
The result of this improvement effort was beneficial for me as it addresses the whole person from the perspective of worker, family member and community member. I observed the students, as they were supported, blossom into a new image of themselves -- becoming better communicators, team members, and problem solvers. Meanwhile the Columbus Urban League is moving toward its goal of 80 % placement. The Columbus Urban League as a service-oriented agency has, through continuous improvement, conquered its mission “Promoting the full participation of African Americans and other citizens in the economic and social fabric of our society”.