Ring The Bell – December 2014

This month, we’re honoring a community partner who been a fantastic mentor to youth over the years as well as one of our own employees who takes the phrase ‘hearts and minds’ to….heart!

Community Partner – Ring the Bell Winner

Jeff Benesch of Trans-System Inc. is this month’s Ring the Bell winner in our Community Partners category!  We were able to ask Robin Knott at the Next Gen Zone some questions on what makes Jeff so successful:

Career Path Services: What makes Jeff such a great partner?
RobinJeff has been one of the best at mentoring youth.  He has hired several of my participants over the years and their retention has been very successful. He relays employment options as a “career choice” rather than “a job”.

Career Path Services: What part of the community does Jeff serve on a daily basis?
Robin: Trans-System, Inc. has worked within  all of the WIA programs.  He is not only willing; but welcomes working with our youth, when other employers may be a little reluctant. Jeff always sees the potential, not the barriers in people.

Career Path Services: Can you share a story or example of where Jeff has put his working philosophies into practice?
Robin: When Jeff calls asking if I can fill an open position he usually hires two 🙂 .The latest position that we worked on filling was not only the perfect person for the opening.   He took on a internship which has the potential of employment after completion of WEX.

Career Path Services:  What else should we know about Jeff?
Robin:  I have worked with Jeff and Trans-System, Inc. for many years. Some of the people I have placed have now been with the company for several years and proved to be great assets to the business. I look forward to working with Jeff for many years to come!

Are you a youth looking for work or want to know more about the Next Gen Zone?  Get in touch with Robin at robink@nextgenzone.org or give her a call at 509-340-7812.  Thanks for the fantastic nomination Robin – we hope to see more like this in the coming months.

Career Path Services Employee – Ring The Bell Winner

Riddle – What would you get if you crossed the Energizer Bunny with a passionate, creative, performance driven Bulldog?

Answer – Mike Helmberger


Mike asks a question during a recent Skype conference with Damion Barbachan, General Manager at Adidas Group.

Mike is the force behind the success of the Opportunity Partnership Program (OPP) and the SFCC Student-Employer Engagement Program. These programs serve first generation and low income college students by engaging them in mentorships with area employers. Mike has taken these programs to heart based on the impact mentorship has had on his personal life; he had (and still has) a mentor who he credits with shaping his life.

Mike’s strategy has been to win the hearts and minds of instructors at Spokane Community College and Spokane Falls Community College. Instructors have retention, placement and wage goals too. Mike has positioned himself as the middle-man between students, instructors and employers to help each group meet their goals. As a result, he is welcome in classrooms, students stand in line to get his help, and employers provide tours, job shadows, real world resume and interview assistance, internships, and JOBS.  Employers who never considered WorkSource or the Community Colleges as players in their hiring process now spend time on campus talking to classes about their businesses and industries, teaching classes, encouraging students to complete their studies, interviewing students, and making JOB OFFERS.

Energy? Mike is a man in motion. He is either in the classroom working with instructors and students, accompanying students on employer site visits, recruiting new employers as mentors, talking with Deans and Department Chairs to add new programs of study to the Mentorship Program, or prospecting for students who he can connect with his WIA team members for additional services. He has offices on both campuses and at WorkSource; but all he really needs is a cell phone, a lap-top, a car…and Starbucks.


Mike’s students look on during a live Skype video conference.

Creativity? How about using LinkedIn to connect with HR Recruiters from Google, Adidas, Amazon and other high profile employers and getting them to visit with groups of participants via Skype? Having trouble getting low income adults to see the value of working with employers? How about getting instructors to write tours, job shadows, internships and employer assistance into their course syllabi and counting participation as part of the students’ grade?

Performance? After finishing PY-13 at 133% goal attainment, Mike has achieved over 50% of his PY-14 OPP participation goal since students returned to campus in September, and is well on his way to 100% goal attainment in both programs (probably in a 6 month year). He has already reached 66% of his referral target by referring over 20 high quality prospects to WIA team members for enrollment.

Passion? Reducing student loan debt is a top priority for Mike. It is becoming common for students in a two year program to be $20,000 in debt upon receiving their AAS degree. Many of these students have little or no awareness of the cost of borrowing over time, when repayment must begin, whether their potential earnings will support loan repayment and self-sufficiency, or whether the career they have chosen will enable them to achieve financial independence. Look for the Energizer Bulldog’s solution in the very near future.

Please join us in welcoming Mike Helmberger to the Ring the Bell family.

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