“Soft Skills” - are they truly necessary for the workplace? Yes, say employers, and many have been giving this feedback to anyone in education circles who’s willing to listen! Personal finance courses are an ideal place to embed opportunities to practice these skills since content taught in these classes can work to prepare and connect students and the workplace. So, what are these skills? They are the skills that reflect a polished worker. They are skills that will most likely elevate your application in the job seeking/job promotion process, and any student leaving high school should have these skills in their career readiness tool kit.
A firm handshake. Being on time (or better yet, ahead of time). Time management and organizational skills. These are all traits, skills and behaviors that can be taught and reinforced in the traditional school setting. So are skills such as communication (both oral and written), teamwork and collaboration, problem solving, conflict resolution, and being able to observe and think critically through the process. Sounds like a “no-brainer” for members of the workforce who are older. However, for the generations entering today’s workforce from high school or college, employers are seeing a need for workers to boost these skills.
Are there any ways a classroom teacher or district administrator could help students learn these skills? Yes! Career Day events and mock interview scenarios where partners from the world of work interact with students is a great place to start. In these settings, students can practice those firm handshakes and the art of making eye contact with someone new. Dressing for success could also be applied in this setting as well. Are most employers interested in helping fine tune the soft skills of future workers? Absolutely! In a recent school-based mock interview setting in Manassas City School District, area employers were very excited to reach out, assist and interact with high school students. The employer feedback was “spot on” for what the consensus is: soft-skills are missing. One particular question posed to a student by an employer highlights the value of staging this type of event: “What would you do if you knew you were running late to work by 30 minutes?” The student was not prepared on “how” to answer this question. Fortunately, the interviewer provided an appropriate response which ultimately supported this “teachable moment.”
Forming business partner relationships with schools is key to the success of providing student opportunities for growth. When public-private partners come together in settings like this, even more opportunities can develop for students such as internships, mentoring, job-shadowing, project-based learning, and guest speaking. Additionally, employer expertise can be sought to help provide input on curriculum and what is taking place with technology use in their respective industries. Lastly, teacher externships provide educators with opportunities to take their related content curriculum and see how it plays out in industry or vice versa. Even better, teachers can learn from employer visits and take industry problems and solutions back into the classroom to enrich the learning experience for students.
How does the process start? Think outside the box and begin attending events in your area: Chamber of Commerce meetings, Rotary Club Meetings, Business Council and Development Meetings, and conferences in different industries. All these groups provide opportunities to get the dialogue moving and the chance for businesses to get involved with schools.
So, personal finance teachers, don’t be afraid to reach out to your business community leaders to ask for help with making students career ready. Bring a smile and a strong handshake and greet every person/business as a potential partner.