October 20, 2021

Coffee Mania, Intertek get state workforce grants

Building on job skills

S.N. Briere/staff reporter

Coffee Mania Barista Manager Jessica Burhans hands Karen Kelly an iced coffee Thursday morning. Burhans is among 38 Coffee Mania employees who will get training in interpersonal and teamwork skills from Tompkins Cortland Community College with funds from a state grant.

Coffee Mania baristas Kate Smith, Brittany Button and Jessica Burhans moved around the tight building, grabbing cups, pouring coffee all while communicating what orders needed to be made for the drivers on the other side of the service windows.

The three workers among 38 the company has who will get the opportunity to be one of 30 people to take classes at Tompkins Cortland Community College to build on their communication and teamwork skills, while developing critical thinking skills.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Jan. 16 the company was one of two in Cortland County to get funding through the state’s workforce development initiative. The initiative is funded through the state Department of Labor, the State University of New York and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Coffee Mania received $7,290 and Intertek received $14,029, said SUNY spokeswoman Holly Liapis. Danby company Stork H&E Turbo Blading is also working with the college.

“We were super grateful that we were accepted for the grant,” Coffee Mania owner Michelle Brooks said Thursday. “We’re always looking for opportunities to educate our staff in fun ways and in ways that are meaningful to them in their life. It’s not going to be a mandated thing, but it is going to be strongly encouraged. We will make accommodations for those that want to participate.”

Brooks said the company worked with TC3 in 2018 to have a workshop for its management team. At the time, she said she expressed an interest in offering more training to her other employees.

Brooks said life got in the way and the idea was set aside until October, when she brought the idea to Carrie Whitmore, the director of continuing education and work force development at the college.

From there, the two women worked on the grant application that included
outlining modules the employees would learn.

“Our staff has incredible customer service skills, our goal is to just strengthen them internally as a team,” Brooks said.

The three modules:

  • Leading yourself and being your best, which focuses on the employees gaining a better understanding of themselves, how to take initiative and understanding how they process information and social interactions.
    “They’ll take this knowledge and improve and self-regulate their responses to things,” Brooks said.
  • Working as a team through problem solving and critical thinking, lea ing to greater productivity and better relationships.
  • Interpersonal communications, including different ways of communication, both verbal and non-verbal.

“I don’t how it’s (the program) utilized in the community, but it’s an absolute gem,” Brooks said. “The teachers are phenomenal.”

Intertek is also no stranger to working with TC3 to train workers. It worked with the college last spring for its first three-part leadership development series involving 40 employees.

“It was well received, so we are excited to get the chance to do it again this year,” said Bernadette Sinclair, the regional human resources manager for Intertek’s Cortland location.

Whitmore said Intertek’s training will include 40 employees and focus on communication skills, which will include listening and coaching of staff.

“It is our hope that this series will build upon previous supervisory trainings Intertek has held for employees,” Sinclair said. “These tools being taught will promote accountability and growth of our staff throughout the year. This training will help with creating a system of continual improvement and coaching here at Intertek, which will increase employee performance and productivity.”

Coffee Mania and Intertek aren’t likely to be the only companies in Cortland County the college works with, said Peter Voorhees, the college’s public information officer.

“Think of the governor’s release as kind of an update of where everyone stands now,” Voorhees said in an email. “By the time we finish the year, our list will be much longer than the three companies mentioned.”