STLCC CISS Program Gives Students Vital Skills and Self-Confidence

By on April 17, 2019
STLCC CISS program graduates

“When you’re committed to your success, nothing can stop you,” said Keith Turner, instructor for St. Louis Community College’s Customer Information Support Specialist (CISS) program, addressing the latest cohort of students during their graduation ceremony.

“There’s no better investment than in your personal education,” he continued. “If there’s something you want to do in this lifetime, commit yourself. Take that step. You never know what can happen once you get inspired.”

Neither snow nor fire could stand in the way of the graduates of the recent CISS program.

“What’s normally a twelve-week program actually lasted thirteen-and-a-half weeks after snow days and a fire resulted in class cancellations at the Forest Park campus,” said Lesley English-Abram, the College’s manager of community services, as she elaborated on the cohort’s tenacity in her speech during the ceremony. “This is just further proof of this group’s dedication to the program.”

St. Louis Community College’s CISS professional certificate program is where inspiration meets opportunity. This well-rounded, hands-on training program provides a solid foundation for adult learners who are motivated to reenter the workforce, change careers or upgrade both technical and essential soft skills. Students delve deep into the Microsoft Office product suite, PC fundamentals, cyber security and even budgets and financial literacy.

“You learn quite a bit,” declared program graduate, Andrew Eschete. “I had general experience with a lot of these applications, but there was still a lot that you don’t really know and might need to know for a job.”

Fellow graduate Lizzie Wright shared similar thoughts about the value of getting a better understanding of these common, ever-evolving applications.

“I have experienced Microsoft Word before, but I’ve noticed how something new gets added each year that I didn’t know,” she said.

CISS students receive technical instruction coupled with coaching in areas of customer service, résumé development, personal growth, leadership and professional planning. Graduates leave the program equipped for data entry, customer service, cybersecurity and administrative support jobs that are in high demand in the St. Louis region.

“The instructors took it all the way from technical skills to soft skills,” Wright said. “The classes covered everything from networking and résumé building to interview questions. We even role-played things that could happen in an office. From beginning to end of getting a job, the program covered all of it.”

The classes also help students like Wright build up confidence alongside capabilities.

“I’m usually such a quiet and reserved person,” said Wright. “I took the class to get out of my shell, and it made me feel less tense. When you go out into networking situations, you have to get out of your comfort zone and talk to people so they can get to know who you are and see if you’re a fit for the company. It’s scary, but the program gets you ready.”

The end goal for students of the CISS program is often similar, but their individual paths to the program can vary. Graduate Danyale Griffin had entertained the idea of entering the program back when it was known as Business Office Applications Training (BOAT) but circumstances prevented her from enrolling at the time. Fortunately, the timing was right for Griffin to join this cohort, and the biggest hook for her was the mentoring component of the program.

“What got me this time was the mentorship and the different offerings to help students excel in finding a career once they finish the program,” said graduate Danyale Griffin. “Once I heard about that, I thought, ‘I’ve got to do this.’”

Wright heard about the program when she went to the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment (SLATE) seeking guidance.

“They asked if I was willing to train for a new job, and I thought, ‘Who’s going to say no to learning something new that can help you throughout life?’” Wright said.

For CISS student Nikki Panahova, who came to the United States two years ago from the former Soviet Union region of Azerbaijan, the program offered an opportunity to build upon her 10 years of benefits management experience while gaining invaluable exposure to local workforce nuances.

“It is a great opportunity for me,” said Panahova. “I’m looking for a job, but I don’t have any educational or job experience in the United States. I had a chance to learn from amazing teachers, and I think it will be really helpful for my future life here.”

Griffin also expressed her satisfaction with the program facilitators, particularly with the individualized approach the instructors take.

“The teachers were awesome,” Griffin said. “Everyone learns differently. I’m a visual, very hands-on learner, so a lot of the instructors worked with me on that and broke everything down in a way I could understand. If anyone came into the program with a specific learning style, the instructors helped them tremendously. They were really interested in getting us out there to find a career.”

Program graduates who receive their certifications in Word and Excel and choose to continue their education at STLCC may also earn up to 11 credit hours towards the Certificate of Specialization in Computer Applications or the Associate in Applied Science in Office Information Systems.

Wherever the next step takes them, the impact of the CISS program’s comprehensive, personalized approach is a graduate who feels better educated, uplifted by their accomplishments and empowered by the opportunities ahead.

“I want to find a virtual assistant job or even open up my own business. Or I can take what I have here and expand on it if I want to go deeper into IT or computer programming,” said Griffin. “I feel like this is the foundation that I needed to get where I’m going.”

Panahova also spoke excitedly of her ability to take the next meaningful step in her career journey.

“This is an investment in ourselves that helps build our future. For me, a migrant, to get the certificates—it means a lot,” Panahova said proudly. “I gained this. I did it by myself. I got more confident. In April, I have a job interview and I’ll take my certificates with me as documents that say, ‘Yes, she can do it.’”

Even with the certificates in hand, the support the students can receive from STLCC is by no means coming to a close.

“It doesn’t end here,” English-Abram reiterated during the graduation ceremony. “Over the next few weeks, you will meet with us on the job search piece, and our computer labs and resources are always available for your use. St. Louis Community College is here for you.”

New sessions for the CISS program begin throughout the year. Visit the St. Louis Community College CISS program page online to learn more.

About Rebecca Rutherford

Rebecca Rutherford is Marketing Communications Coordinator of St. Louis Community College’s Workforce Solutions Group, which delivers non-credit continuing education opportunities, corporate training and community services to the St. Louis region.

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