Can you believe that some of our alumni report late to work at local plants, do not exhibit dependability, or fall short in other performance qualities unrelated to academic proficiency for the job? Ouch, I remember my own less than stellar times as a student or employee when letting discipline slide, or when going through a stressful life change. It was good to have an understanding friend or mentor, but still, the fact remains that school and jobs thrive on performance and attitude, no matter what is going on away from school or work.
Local plants have shared rumblings of discontent about some of our alumni in hopes that the college can enter into a community dialogue on how to emphasize student soft skills so that those skills have a better chance of carrying over into the workforce. Our own Carol Kirves put together a great questionnaire for local plants asking them to list qualities deemed vital in employees. The result was a PowerPoint (don’t say “ugh” yet) that Carol presented to the Professional Development Committee, and her warmth and interest made it more than a dry recitation.
Hopefully, by the time you read this, you will have seen at least the brief version of Carol’s presentation and heard from Ted Wilson about the monkey survey in the making to get input on what you already do to encourage the qualities coveted by industry.
There is nothing threatening about the process. It is just a way to get a picture of what different faculty do, and input is solicited not to try and arrive at a rule for the faculty, or to tell anyone how to manage his or her classroom.
Carol pointed out that by doing something locally, we let industry know that we are listening to their concerns. PD Committee members agreed that it is good to have a springboard for discussion at the college, not to belabor the woes of who out there in the community is at fault, but to show a spirit of engagement with the community and among ourselves in seeking to more prudently encourage the desired traits, i.e. soft skills.
This has the potential of getting heated and descending into faultfinding. It is natural to have a vent now and then, but beyond that, the purpose is to consciously emphasize what we do and begin to relate it to workplace concerns. This may not sound highly academic, but I remember that in K-12, I received citizenship grades all along the way, and my parents sure used some of those report card comments to, let’s say, “encourage” more acceptable behavior on my part. I well remember the tandem of school, home, and influential community figures sculpting away resistant chunks of marble from my masterpiece in the making, and that process continues to this day.
Soft Skills may seem too obvious for us to discourse on: when I first heard of the industry rumblings, frankly I was disgusted and vented: “Can’t they police their own people?” What I later reflected upon is that not everybody grows up with an engineer and a school teacher for parents like I did, and not everybody attaches to mentor figures early on; and even though school is no substitute for the harsh living situations of many, a community college can make a contribution to other masterpieces in the making, even if they appear improbable at the moment.