Soft Skills Juncture

Brian pic“The Words of the Prophets are
Written on the subway walls”
–Simon and Garfunkel

Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t know what a soft skill was. Soft meant a choice on how people want their eggs cooked, or a mattress preference. Look out, the workplace has soft skills. Professionally minded people already use them by any name they’re called, but a heightened emphasis is underway via collaboration between colleges and local employers.

Reese Bailey gave a tremendous presentation on soft skills in my ENG 101 class. Reese always comes to my 101 classes to introduce the online library but also to ignite students through his own story that began in Arkansas in the 1950s when he went to school just half the year. His parents thought it was more important for Reese to work on the farm the other half. However, a persistent teacher finally changed their minds, and Reese has been changing people’s minds ever since.workplace-behavior-i1

Reese always points out that he’s been on countless hiring committees. “These committees want to look at your transcripts and see how many courses you withdrew from, how many courses you failed, and how many Ds and Cs you made.” Reese adds, “Going to school is your most important job. If you are late to class, you will be late to work. If you miss classes, you will miss work, and employers don’t have a closet with bodies in it that they can pull out to work when you’re not there.”

goodworkerReese has always said these things, but he called them soft skills this time and gave some definitions in contrast to hard skills—meaning technical skills. Soft skills are the people skills.

Reese was on fire this time for an hour. This would have been a time for him to be wired up and recorded. He’s such a great story teller and energizer. His whole presentation, included one of the best overviews on financial planning you will ever hear, and a tie in to the theme that students are writing on a financial topic using the online library. One student, Amanda Thomas, said afterwards that Reese should get a raise.

The blog today goes beyond in-class presentations in scope. The Professional Development Committee has been tasked with coming up with ideas for the 2015-2016 school year to introduce soft skill training akin to what we saw on advising in 2013-2014.

What needs emphasis is the fact that many students feel carried along by the system when it comes to education. The government, schools, businesses, and families beg students to go to school and fund a big chunk of education. It could be easy to think, “Someone will always beg me and pay my way.”empleado-eng

But then comes the sudden, steep, unforeseen precipice when no one is begging because it’s time to go to work, and prime job openings have dozens or more applicants for any given position. Now, instead of being begged and underwritten, a graduate must adapt to a competitive world. How will the student or graduate shift gears and awaken to the change?

That’s a question that should evoke lots of discussion as the soft skills movement gets more visibility.

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