One thing we continue to strive for here at Advance Memphis is a smoother transition for our Jobs for Life grads as they move into the workplace. We get pretty creative in order to reach that goal, and over the last year, the garden around the corner from our building has been a lab for that creativity. It has helped us build relationships and experiment with crops and small business ideas—and now we’re turning it into a classroom. Our Employment and Education departments teamed up to develop a Garden Work Day: the students take a class day and go do some physical work in our community garden.
I was involved with this process because of my role in our Employment department. My task is to bring in an employer view point, since a lot of the class will start working for me, through the Advance Memphis Staffing Program, after they graduate. During the Garden Work Day, participants helped to dig and amend four 4 x 10 garden beds and planted a cover crop of organic peas, clover, buckwheat, and rye grass. I believe that the Garden Work Day was beneficial in several ways:
After the work day, we came together and discussed how the experience went. We were able to get feedback from the graduates and see what they noticed and to hear their perceptions of their work as individuals, and as a team. They were then able to hear what other staff and I saw and observed. The experience allowed participants to see how employers look at things and perceive them as employees.
The more that we can help our graduates understand how employers think, the easier it will be for them to let go of the “victim” mentality and take more responsibility. Working with graduates and business clients as closely as I have, I have been fortunate to see and understand how both employers and employees feel in a wide variety of workplace situations. I know firsthand that an employee who has no context for understanding how his or her boss is thinking can easily feel that he or she is being picked on. The truth, of course, is that managers have a standard that they are required to meet just like everyone else. Misunderstanding communication about these standards can cause an employees’ excitement and desire to work to diminish—and we need to rid our graduates of that as best as we can. I am grateful for the opportunity to get to join the class in the Garden Work Day and I look forward to doing it again.
Please continue to partner with us and pray for our graduates as they see the importance and dignity that God created in work.