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Local Business

Pilot year of Certificate of Employability a success

At this time last year, the Grundy County Chamber and numerous of its members were planning to debut a Certificate of Employability program in local high schools to help better our future workforce’s soft skills.

A year later, we have completed the first program with about 160 freshmen going through the Certificate of Employability program.

As a result, many Grundy business owners and managers taking applications for the summer may start seeing these certificates attached to applications being turned in for their job openings.

We ask that you give that applicant some extra consideration when deciding whom to interview since he or she has made the extra effort to enhance their skills to prepare themselves for their first job.

The Certificate of Employability idea stemmed from the Chamber’s Business Education Council, a group that focuses on building support for business education partnerships – allowing business and education leaders to make connections, learn from each other, and identify common goals and issues. 

Across all careers and job opportunities, we have learned employers are seeing a lack of soft skills among applicants and employees of all ages.

These soft skills include looking people in the eye, dressing appropriately for work, turning cellphones off, taking initiative, and other skills that were once considered common knowledge.

As a result of this common concern, the Business Education Council brainstormed the Certificate of Employability program, spearheaded by the Chamber with help from the Community Foundation.

The program familiarizes students with the expectations of the workforce to help equip them for their first job. Students hear from owners and managers in the local business community who teach them skills required to work in jobs such as retail, fast food, sit-down dining and more.  

For instance, the students learned how to fill out an application, including making sure to fill it out themselves, not a parent or guardian, and using teachers, club sponsors, or coaches as references – not parents or friends. During another session the owner of the Morris McDonald’s, Nathan Pappas, discussed with the kids making sure they always look presentable, keeping uniforms clean and pressed, not throwing your shirt in the back seat after a shift and rewearing it the next day.

Upon completion of the program, students can earn a Certificate of Employability, which they can attach to their job applications showing employers the extra effort they have put in to equip themselves for their first job. The certificate explains to the employers what the program focused on with the students and how the certificate was earned.

In its pilot year, about 160 freshmen from Morris and Coal City high schools participated in the program, where representatives from 10 local businesses and Joliet Junior College spoke to the students on the importance of soft skills.

Some students were even able to participate in mock interviews, practicing the skills they learned and receiving feedback from business members to help better prepare themselves.

The Chamber has already heard positive feedback from some area businesses who have seen the certificates come through, and two of our students have already been hired.

If you are in the type of business that hires teenagers, you may start to see these certificates attached to applications.

We ask that you take note of the extra effort these students have made when deciding to interview them versus a young applicant who may not have the certificate.

A special thanks to the owners of McDonald’s restaurants in Minooka and Morris, along with Channahon General Rental, Gigi’s in Morris, Sunshine Garden Center in Diamond, the Coal City police and public works departments, and Joliet Junior College’s Grundy Workforce Services for taking the time to present to our students this year.

We are currently working on the program, for next school year and are looking for speakers. If you are interested in being a part of this program have any questions about the certificates or just want more information, please contact me at the Grundy Chamber office, call 815-942-0113, or email  

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