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Tribe launches Professional Development Program

Education doesn’t end with graduation from high school or college – it is a lifelong endeavor. The Education Department realizes this simple fact and has designed programs to encourage Tribal members to continue learning in the real world.

The revamped Tribal Professional Development Program has three components: Summer Work Experience, Work Experience and Advanced Career Development. Each component has specific requirements and directives based on the participant’s age and educational level.

“The program is more than a placement agency; it’s an educational experience,” said Marie Dufour, Professional Development Program manager. “This is a comprehensive program that will benefit both the participants and the Tribe in the long run.”

The program aims to create future leaders and to build on the investment the Tribe has made in education. The new structure of the program will help participants learn skills and behaviors to help them succeed academically and professionally. Additionally, the program will act as a liaison between the Education and Human Resources departments.

The Summer Work Experience began in 2005, and the goal of the nine-week program is largely the same: to expose Tribal youth to various departments within the Tribe so they can begin thinking about a career. Previously for youth ages 14 to 18, it is now open to people from ages 14 to 24. Another new requirement is a 2.0 GPA. Participants will rotate between departments to glimpse the career diversity within the Tribe.

“We want to encourage them to align their academic journeys to match future career opportunities with the Tribe,” Dufour said. “This is an awesome opportunity. Most students don’t know where their education will lead them; we can focus their education to match their interests.”

Summer Work Experience participants will rotate through several departments during the summer program. Last year, more than 50 kids participated in the program. Applications will be available in the Education Department on each reservation starting May 6. The deadline for applications is May 31, and the program runs June 10 through Aug. 12.

The Work Experience component, a two-year program geared toward people ages 18 and older, provides professional growth through on-the-job training. Participants, who must have a high school diploma or GED, will learn the core competencies needed in each department. The program aims to provide Tribal members with employment opportunities that will develop their work ethic, help them build a resume and learn effective interviewing skills.

“We want to give the participant as much experience as possible to learn what they need to succeed in each department,” Dufour said. “We used to be just a placement opportunity, but now we will develop the participants as employees.”

Following specific curriculum, each department will train participants, track their progress and help them understand what is expected of them. The participants will spend enough time in each department to master those skills. The evaluation process is an essential part of the program. The Professional Development team will evaluate the joint performance of the departments and the participants to make sure things run smoothly for all involved.

Work Experience is not a new program but it has been revamped to meet the needs of the Tribe and the employees. The participants, which are limited to 60 people, will be paid while they are in the program.

Advanced Career Development participants will work directly with management while grooming to be future leaders of the Tribe. Participants must be 18 and older and have an associate degree or higher, as confirmed by the Education Department. Participants will rotate between departments within their individual career arcs. The goal is to get Tribal members into management positions within the Tribe.

College graduates can join the program to gain experience working with supervisors, managers and directors and to increase organizational and operational experience. The Education Department recognizes Tribal graduates need to develop workplace expertise, and the ACD offers the opportunity to gain those skills. The program is projected to begin early 2014.

“The Professional Development Program can develop peoples’ skills and make them true professionals,” Dufour said. “That will let them give back to their community, and not many people can say that.”

For more information about the Tribal Professional Development Program, email

Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at