Sociology ProgramDepartment of Sociology and Anthropology
Sociology Program

Laura Miller Biography

Laura Miller Alumni Biography

            I have been employed with the State of Minnesota for over five years. For the past three years I have served the Department of Employment and Economic Development. I am classified as a VR Business Services Specialist (VRBSS), serving both the MN-DEED Business Services Unit as well as MN-DEED Vocational Rehabilitation Services.

            The VRBSS position exists to help Minnesota business stay competitive in today’s highly mobile, global environment. It is designed to meet the solutions of business by brokering, providing and promoting knowledgeable and comprehensive business solutions on behalf of the state. Additionally, this position specializes in assisting businesses in developing disability initiatives. The position directly interacts with business, to determine business needs, identification of State, Federal, County, and other local resources, propose solutions to business, and conduct follow up on satisfaction measurements. This position encourages and supports partnerships between Minnesota Workforce Center programs, industry, education, and economic development. VRBSS develop innovative and collaborative solutions.

            In working with the State, I have also held the following positions:

Employment and Economic Development Business Services Specialist

            This job involved professional employer outreach and marketing for all agency services and programs. The purpose was to coordinate business service activities for WorkForce Centers and also plan and execute marketing plans to meet the personnel needs of the area and employers while promoting Job Service within the community. Employees in this class spend the majority of their time dealing directly with employers to promote agency services, determine employer needs, and propose solutions to employer personnel problems.

            Some examples of work include: developing a business outreach plan in conjunction with the WorkForce Investment Boards and other WorkForce Center partners; developing and maintaining long-term relationships with local businesses by assisting businesses in locating appropriate resources; developing a marketing plan for a specific labor market; creating informational materials and planning media events for customers; developing relationships with area employers to secure exclusive hiring arrangements; answer employer’s questions; creating a database containing information on area employers; as well as developing relationships with the local, county and state economic development authorities in order to provide primary and timely services to new or changing employers.

            This type of job requires certain skills and abilities including: marketing techniques; journalistic and advertising principles sufficient to prepare news releases, flyers, newsletters, brochures, televisions and radio scripts; knowledge of computers and computer software; knowledge of State and Federal employment laws and programs; the ability to sell and promote agency programs and services; research and design competitive strategies; write effectively to prepare informational materials; communicate orally to persuade employers to utilize services; speak publicly; research, analyze, and compile demographic information; and also develop creative solutions to employer problems.

Vocational Rehabilitation Technician Senior

            This job involved Para-professional vocational rehabilitation intake and specialty work. The purpose was to provide supportive assistance to professional program staff and limited direct service to clients in one or more of the areas of initial intake and orientation. Some examples of work include: completing orientation sessions to explain vocational rehabilitation eligibility criteria and potential services; interviewing prospective clients; reviewing client intake forms to establish procedures so that medical, psychological and vocational information is provided in order to determine which medical evaluative services are needed; administer and score standardized work evaluation tests, conduct work adjustment training programs; encouraging acceptable work behaviors; facilitating and providing group instruction related to disability and employment topics; interviewing clients to provide job placement services; referring job ready clients to suitable job openings; and also conduct job-seeking skills training sessions.

            This type of job requires certain skills including knowledge of: Federal, State, and departmental employment and vocational rehabilitation laws, regulations, policies, and procedures; medical terminology regarding physical and psychological disabilities; WorkForce Center and community resource programs and agencies; job markets, market trends, and job search strategies; and work evaluation test instruments and work adjustment methods.

            This job requires one to possess the ability to: interview individuals to obtain personal information necessary to determine program eligibility and needs; analyze and evaluate client data to compare against program eligibility standards; summarize client data and observed behavior into written case histories and reports; conduct individual and group training programs; and establish and maintain formal working relationships with staff of other service providers.

Corrections Agent

            This job involved working with professional entry level correctional casework and group work. An employee in this class is responsible for providing investigative and diagnostic services for the courts, Department of Corrections, Minnesota Corrections Board (MCB) and provides casework, group work, placement and supervision services for juvenile and adult offenders, and community services in a correctional institution. Assignments are specific and detailed in nature with direction and supervision usually received from a Corrections Supervisor or Corrections Specialist. Work is closely reviewed through conferences, reports and field visits.

            Some examples of work include: supervising and counseling parolees and probationers; interviewing inmates of a correctional institution; conducting progress reports and minimum custody requests; conducting pre- and post- sentence investigations and social histories for the county district courts, Minnesota Corrections Board and correction institutions; ensuring that progress and violation reports are submitted to the district court judge and the Minnesota Corrections Board; working cooperatively with the judiciary, law enforcement officials, and community services; interpreting probation and parole agreements to parolees and probationers; and interpreting the department’s admission statement, policies, and procedures to the community and other interest groups.

            This job requires certain skills including knowledge of: principles of Human Behavior Dynamics; counseling and guidance practices and procedures; problems encountered while working with juveniles and adult offenders. This job also requires one to possess the ability to: make thorough social history investigations and to analyze results; utilize community resources to benefit the probationers and parolees; organize assigned work and develop and supervise effective work methods; work effectively with a variety of clients; evaluate and interpret case material and to formulate plans for individual treatment; and to establish and maintain effective public relations.

Human Services Technician

            This job deals with the beginning level of treatment, rehabilitation, or instructional work with individuals or groups of patients/residents in state institutions or other social service programs. Employees in this class are taught skills and techniques related to the treatment, training and care within a residential care facility for the aged, disabled, and chemically dependent. Employees may be assigned to perform a variety of tasks and activities in any or a number of the following areas: direct patient care, recreation, physical therapy, vocational rehabilitation, behavior modification and education programs. Employees participate and assist in implementing the care and treatment programs determined by supervisors.

            Some examples of work include: conducting individual resident programs; assisting in group activities and program planning meetings; maintaining records on resident program attendance; communicating observations orally or in writing; and assisting living unit staff in performing basic health procedures and providing direct care for patients/residents.

            This job requires certain skills including knowledge of all institutional policies, procedures, programs and personnel policies applicable to the performance of the specific assignments. One must also possess the ability to: understand and effectively implement both oral and written instructions; observe, record, and report orally and in writing on the progress of patients/residents; communicate well and develop a good rapport with patients/residents and other staff; and administer and chart prescribed medications when assigned.

            Sociology has been extremely useful and pertinent in all my jobs working with the State of Minnesota. St. Cloud State University’s Sociology Program provided me with the experience, credentials, education and support that became the key to my success. I enjoyed all of the collaborative group projects, research activities, travel and other opportunities to get involved and apply my skills. I served as the Sociology Club President, which was a great honor to be involved in creating activities for the public to attend, organize events to benefit great causes, lobby for social change at the capital, and participate in inter-departmental activities. I have great respect for my senior instructors – I have learned how to gather information, apply data, use statistics, and have also developed a high level of problem solving skills. All the hard work was definitely worth the effort! I would recommend taking Social Statistics, Social Deviance, Senior Project or any other course in an area that pushes you to the next level!

Here is a list of helpful advice or suggestions for current or future Sociology Students:

  • Volunteer to be part of everything
  • Become involved in your community
  • Network with different people
  • Stay in touch
  • Learn something from every opportunity and take the road less traveled

Tips for job searching:

  • Spend time on your resume, use examples of activities, community involvement, or projects
  • Create a new resume and cover letter for every application (be focused)
  • Research the company, why would you like to work there?
  • Check out the “Occupational Outlook Handbook” online. (It’s free.)
  • Request letters of reference from instructors
  • Practice interviewing, it should feel more like a conversation
  • Follow up, send thank you notes, check on your job status, get to know HR
  • Be creative, sociologists work in nearly every field and have valuable insights
  • Internships are a great way to get into tough companies
  • Take jobs that add to your work experience, you can always “move up” once you’re in!
  • Check out the Minnesota Job Bank: www.minnesotaworks.net
  • Consider working for the government: http://www.careers.state.mn.us/
  • Find the “high paying” and “high demand” jobs
  • If you are not getting “called back”, update your resume and cover letter
  • Network, where are your friends and family working? Who do you know?

If you need some help on the job search, writing resumes, need practice interviewing, or want to know “who” is hiring – please feel free to drop me a line:

Laura.miller@state.mn.us

           

           

           

                       

           

 

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