Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Members Develop Skills for Successful Employment

Last May 7 the first class of Cheyenne River’s Workin’ with Tradition graduates completed the reservation-themed workforce development training. It was offered twice more to reservation job seekers in 2014.

The training, which targets individuals who may not have a lot of experience in the workforce, empowers potential employees to deal with on-the-job issues in a culturally-relevant way. Four Bands Community Fund, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Ventures, CRST Oyate Connections and Vocational Rehabilitation coordinated efforts to offer the training to reservation job seekers. Many graduates were clients from CRST Oyate Connections and the TANF program.

The training addresses a lot of issues that first-time or entry-level employees might struggle with – issues from time management to how to ask for leave.

The Workin’ with Tradition curriculum was developed by Steve Parese, Ed.D., and is designed to help Native American job-seekers improve self-awareness and interpersonal “soft skills” needed to successfully enter into and advance in the world of work.

Reservation partners coordinated to develop a group of certified trainers, able to provide this training on a regular basis across the reservation. Eight local people are currently certified: Arlen Lee, Lyle Cook, Austin Cook, Mike Shaving, Lonnie Brewer, Jessica Hernandez, Anthony Hernandez and Mona Dunsmore.

Trainers have found participants leave with confidence and a newfound enthusiasm for the workforce.

Participants developed many new skills during the training, from basic things like punctuality and dependability, to more complex issues like dealing with a hostile coworker. “I’ve been through a lot of stressful situations in work and in life,” said Cameo Roach, a participant from Eagle Butte.

“I really didn’t know how to handle it before; this has helped me.”

Graduates gained employment skills that can benefit reservationbased businesses and programs. “If you get into a regular work situation on the rez, you’re going to see it,” said Arlen Lee, Director of Oyate Connections, another of the training’s sponsors. “It’s pretty much rez-based.”

Although many of the graduates were referred through Oyate Connections, others heard about it via word-of-mouth and decided to take advantage of the free training. “My brother signed me up. He just woke me up and said, ‘we’re going to a training,’” said Erica Condon of Cherry Creek. “I wasn’t going to come, but I came in and liked it – I loved it. I’m glad I kept coming.”

Condon was among Cheyenne River’s first graduates in May. Because she is very familiar with Microsoft Office, she is interested in working as a data entry clerk, but she is also applying to be a CHR and at the Head Start Program.

“Any job would be good right now, actually,” Condon said. “I’ve been out of work for almost a year now.” Some graduates feel the training has improved their chances of success on the job. “I highly recommend people take this training, it’ll help you develop professional and social skills,” said Janova White Horse of Cherry Creek.

The training is also being offered outside of Eagle Butte. “We want to get it out to all the outlying areas,” said Lee. “It’s our job to bring it to them.” “It’s going to help; it will make my resume stronger,” said Leighton Condon of Cherry Creek. He was referred through Oyate Connections, one of the places he has gone looking for a job.

“It’s going to benefit you in your search for employment,” he said. “It’s a great experience.”