Merced County Times Newspaper
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Customer Service Academy in Atwater hoping for increase in registration

Workplace skills training through Merced College’s Customer Service Academy, a well-established program with 10 classes, is available currently at the Atwater Community Center at 760 E. Bellevue Road in Atwater.

However, the first class had to be canceled last week due to low registration numbers.

The Academy teaches skills in customer service, communication, team building, attitude, values/ethics, stress and time management, problem solving, conflict resolution and managing organizational change. The curriculum is updated regularly so it is relevant and pertinent to today’s workplace.

The program was developed by one of the instructors at Merced College. It is in its nineteenth year of being operated by Merced College, and has been given academic credit.

Describing what she hopes will be a temporary issue with enrollment, Elaine Craig, Director of Business, Industry and Community Services for Merced College, said, “It has been a number of years since we’ve had a presence in Atwater. I think Merced College did try about 15 years ago and for whatever reason, it didn’t come to fruition. Here, we are running into the same issue as before – – the numbers. Because these are academic classes, we have to have a minimum of about 20 participants.”

“We scheduled Communication in the Workplace, the first class, for August 7 and 14, but we have had to cancel it.
“But we are doing a class each month, so the next class, Customer Service, is scheduled on September 4 and 11 from 8 a.m. to 12 noon.”

She exclaimed, “We’re ready to go, and we just need the people!

She continued, “It is my understanding that the City of Atwater had employees that they were going to sponsor and send, and the City would pay the $23 for the half unit of credit.

“Typically, employers send their employees, and we bill the employer. The challenge for the employer is that most of these folks are working, but they still have to let their employees attend for two Wednesday mornings per month for almost a year.

“We understand that’s quite a commitment, but at some point, if I have to cancel the first three or four of these classes, I am probably going to cancel the program out there since I have an instructor in abeyance for these times and dates.
“I hope that’s not the case. We’re hoping it will draw from Winton, Livingston, Delhi, and Dos Palos.

“We will add Communication in the Workplace back at the end and will hopefully be able to get through the whole program.”

What is the Customer Service Academy like?

Craig said, “These are all workplace skill classes, and these skills are desperately needed in the workplace.
“As an adjunct faculty member, I’ve taught every one of these classes. You have a diverse group of people from all sectors and levels of experience, and it’s pertinent and valuable to all of them. Whether you’re a welder or working in a bank wearing a suit every day, it’s just really good quality stuff which people can put into practice in their jobs, and it helps the businesses.”

“The classes are all very interactive, and there are group activities and lots of materials and exercises that the participants do, getting out of their seats, conversing and engaging in different activities.

“I think it’s an amazing achievement that the program has received academic credit, which speaks to its quality. The skills taught were once thought of as soft skills but are now called hard skills because they are essential to being a successful employee.”

How did the Customer Service Academy’s presence in Atwater come about?

Craig responded, “The City of Atwater Community Center staff contacted me and asked if we would come out there, and they offered the Community Center as a facility.

“We did schedule it at the Atwater Community Center. All the classes take place on the first and second Wednesday of the month. It takes two mornings to get through each class for one half of a unit credit for Merced College, and it goes all the way to May.

“The City of Atwater will hopefully send the flyer out in the utility bill, and they also have a newsletter.

“The City is changing contact personnel, and told me another person was the permanent contact, and then that person went on vacation this week but will be back in touch, so we’re working through this and they are as well. They’ve been wonderful to deal with.

“We’ve put it on our Merced College Facebook, and we’ve sent the flyer to the Chambers of Commerce.

“The Atwater Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring it with us and will disseminate the flyer through their network.”
Those interested in registering for the Customer Service Academy in Atwater can go online to www.mercedworkplacecenter.org or call 209-386-6733.

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