Academy cadets learn job interview skills

Wyoming Cowboy Challenge Academy Cadet Javier Fierro, 17, right, listens to instructions from English teacher Deidra Wilson following a mock job interview session last week at Camp Guernsey.


GUERNSEY – “What motivates you to do a good job?” “Where do you expect to be five years from now?” “Describe something you failed at and what did you learn from it?”
Those were some of the questions volunteer interviewers posed to the 53 cadets at Wyoming Cowboy Challenge Academy during a mock interview event last week at Camp Guernsey.
Each cadet selected a job from the Wyoming at Work job website to apply for. The cadets then sat in a mock interview session for about 20 minutes to answer interviewer questions.
After the interview session, interviewers scored cadets for items such as alertness, ambition, appearance, attitude, sociability, experience and knowledge.
The interviewers then brought the cadet back into the room to critique their performance and give pointers on how to improve their job interview skills.
“The experience is valuable because they learn what it will be like when they go to a real interview,” English teacher Deidra Wilson said. “Some students don’t get that experience so they don’t know what it’s going to be like in an interview.”
Javier Fierro, 17, said the mock interview session was a helpful experience.
“It feels good to know that I can get feedback because later when I do an interview I’ll know what to say,” Fierro said. “This really helped me today. I noticed that my answers were too short and to add more to it.”
Ilana Putnam, 17, also said the experience was helpful and that she was very happy with her mock interview.
“I’ve never had a real job interview before. This gave me an idea of what it’s going to be like in the future. The things that I’m doing right, I can keep doing those in the future, and the things I’m doing wrong, I can fix those and make them better.”
The academy is a five-and-a-half month residential institution designed to provide education and structure, instill discipline and help non-traditional students between ages 16 and 18 recognize their potential.  
The WCCA is one of 40 such academies nationwide. Classes start in January and July.
The mock interview session is part of the academy’s job skills curriculum, one of eight core components cadets must pass prior to graduation. They also learn resume building, job search skills, how to complete an application, a basic understanding of work ethic and knowledge and skills for educational opportunities.
Some cadets can receive more extensive training in an in-demand job skill such as phlebotomy, carpentry, plumbing, renewable energies and heavy equipment operations.
Kayla Gross, the academy’s recruitment, placement and mentoring coordinator, said that when the National Guard Bureau got ready to start the nationwide program in 1993, they conducted a study “to try to figure out how we make a holistic person who is capable of being a successful graduate.”
“We came up with the eight core components and job skills is one of those, Gross said. “Mock interviews are part of the job skills course and the purpose of it is to teach them how to do an interview, what they need to improve on in a controlled environment.”
Along with job skills, the core components are: academic excellence, life coping skills, physical fitness, leadership, health and hygiene, community service and responsible citizenship.
Cadets also take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery for career exploration and to help better understand their strengths.
“We don’t do that because we want them to go into military,” Gross said. “We do that because there’s an interpretation that goes with that with it. It tells them what they do well at and what their interests are in the military or civilian world.”
The academy, which is 75 percent federally funded and 25 percent funded by the state of Wyoming, is an agency operated by the Wyoming Military Department.
The quasi-military academy’s program includes two phases: the residential phase, which focuses on structure, leadership development, discipline and academics, and the one-year post-residential phase, which takes place after graduation where cadets put their skills to use with the help of a trained mentor.
“As a quasi-military program, we’re focused on that structure and discipline,” Gross said. “These kids are able to get to work on time and they look presentable. They have customer service skills and that’s something that a lot of the youth going through high school wouldn’t have. “
Cadets in the program can earn a high school equivalency certificate or high school credits to transfer back to school.
The academy, accredited by AdvancED and the Wyoming Department of Education, opened in 2006 and boasts more than 1,000 graduates.
Gross said the academy receives positive feedback from employers.
“That’s the great advantage of following them for a year afterwards. We get to follow and reach out to them every month for those 12 months. We have employers throughout the state who will hire the kids just because they graduated from our program.”
 The academy is looking for a cadet team leader and a cadre shift supervisor. For more information about these jobs, contact the academy’s human resources department at (307) 777-8121.

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