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What not to do on the job

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[Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of monthly articles about Bossier Parish School for Technology and Innovative Learning. For more information on BPSTIL, visit www.bossierschools2012.com.] 

Story by Sonja Bailes , Special to the Press-Tribune

A recent confrontation caught on tape at a Shreveport burger joint between a customer and cashier was a topic for discussion in the auto tech class at Bossier Parish Technical School.

An order mix-up prompted a customer to ask for a fresh meal or his money back. What happened next was the epitome of customer service gone awry. Not only was he refused a refund, but one employee threatened to spit in the man’s food.

Laura Demascal used the fast food foul-up as a talking point during her lesson on the importance of soft skills in the workplace.

“Stress and anger can get the best of you, but leave it at home. Don’t carry it to the workplace and customers,” Demascal said. Remember, she added, “the customer is always right, even if they’re not.”

Demascal is a Career Counselor who is teaching weekly lessons on soft skills to every student attending BPTS. She was hired this year by Principal Jayda Spillers after business leaders and the Louisiana Workforce Commission voiced frustration that younger employees are deficient when it comes to those skills, such as proper dress on the job, arriving to work on time, communication skills, respecting superiors and co-workers and using technology appropriately.

Jacques Lasseigne, Regional Industry Coordinator for the Louisiana Workforce Commission, said it is not a problem exclusive to this state; it is an epidemic across the U.S.

“I’ve seen a big shift in probably the last five years,” Lasseigne said. “I went to a conference in Washington D.C. and millennials are notorious nationwide for wanting to work when they want to. They want flexibility. They want the employer to bend to them. Not all workplaces can accommodate that.”

Another complaint Lasseigne hears from employers seeking quality workers is inappropriate usage of technology.

“Today you have to explain to them ‘Turn off the phone.’ They have to unplug. That’s a major issue. They are too connected to the phone in their hand.”

That is where Demascal comes in. Under her tutelage as Career Counselor, she helps students understand workforce needs from an employer’s perspective. She is also working to give them a competitive edge when filling out job applications, creating resumes and re-shaping their attitudes.

“Their expectations are very high in terms of salary and their personal value,” Demascal added. “They think they don’t have to work hard to move up or be promoted and get a raise. I have to bring them down a notch.”

Principal Jayda Spillers’ hope is by the time BPTS students graduate from high school and/or college, they will be the type of employees businesses want to hire.

“We are doing an injustice to these kids if we don’t do this and put the polish on them,” Spillers said. “We are in a position to help. They need to be well-rounded, not just coming out of here with a skill but the soft skills needed as well.”

Sonja Bailes is the Public Relations Liaison for Bossier Parish Schools.