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Monday, Sep 29, 2014

Learning Workforce Skills through Berkshire Vending

For 15-year-old Berkshire High School sophomore Saadiq, rising to a leadership role in the Workforce Development’s Vending Program in his after-school hours, hands-on learning, and a paycheck are changing his whole outlook on life. image

Saadiq regularly joins his mentor, James Wilson, who coordinates Berkshire Vending, on sales meetings. Saadiq presented Berkshire Vending ’s proposal to the Berkshire Mall this summer, after practice sessions preparing for his first sales call.

Management was moved by the combination of professionalism and personal passion evident in Saadiq’s presentation. Saadiq and James are hoping for success when they receive responses to their pitches from area businesses and a local hospital.

image“I tell them about the [Workforce] program — why I’m in it, and how it’s helping me,” said Saadiq.

Saadiq isn’t alone. James Wilson is the Berkshire Vending Coordinator and works closely with several Berkshire students. “The boys in our program are partners — not just employees,” says Wilson. “They help us make decisions about where we should expand business, what items we should stock for particular customers, and a lot more,” he adds. He points out that helping to sell the business to prospective customers gives these young men actual business experience and a great taste of true entrepreneurship. “Their résumés show a potential employer far more value than simply saying they worked for a vending service,” said Wilson.

imageWilson teaches lessons beyond marketing. The youths in the program learn advanced skills setting up programmable vending machines (pictured at left: Wilson works with student, Robert C.). He also teaches them to stock the machines properly and to maintain them reliably. Wilson says potential customers are genuinely interested in the boys’ personal stories and how their business might help them succeed.

“Young men like Saadiq and Robert have made tremendous turnarounds here at Berkshire, and are enthusiastically learning, both in their academic classes and on the job with our vending service.”

Some customers have been so moved that they are donating their share of vending machine proceeds back to the Workforce Development Program. Other Workforce initiatives include building custodial services; culinary/catering/pizzeria; maple syrup production; and nursery & landscaping.

When asked about future plans, Saadiq said he’s looking at the many possibilities and added, “I want to be someone who is respected and admired. I like what I’m learning and doing here at Berkshire.” He says he once thought that school programs were a waste of time. Now, he says, “I learn a lot in school here and I like workforce development. The vending program is perfect for me. I know it’s going to help me in the future.”

Learn more about Berkshire’s Workforce Development Program.

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