The Conference Board, along with The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Corporate Voices for Working Families, and the Society for Human Resource Management, conducted a survey in 2007 of more than 400 employers across the United States to identify skill sets that new workplace entrants will need to succeed. A key finding of the survey is that the "Three Rs" alone are not sufficient to succeed on the job, and applied or soft skills are essential for success. Among the most important soft skills needed by entrants into today's workforce are:
Employers' assessment of new workforce entrants' readiness on these important skills is alarming. A report card shows serious skill deficiencies for high school and two-year college/technical school graduates, and low levels of skill excellence for four-year college graduates. For example, the majority of employers rated high school graduate entrants deficient in all of the most important soft skills. A significant percent rated two-year college or technical school graduates deficient in communication and problem solving skills. And although four-year college graduates were rated mostly adequate, with the exception of written communication skills, only 25 percent of the employers rated them excellent on three of the five most important soft skills. The full report is available online at http://www.conference-board.org/.
Part of this problem can be attributed to the fact that most high school students put little effort into exploring what they want to do upon graduation, have little understanding or experience with the requirements of the work world, and have no action plan in place to prepare for their future, other than some plan to go to college. It's paradoxical that college bound students and their parents put lots of energy into selecting and gaining admission into college, but minimal thought and effort into selecting an occupation and learning the skills it will take to compete successfully in today's competitive global world. As a result many enter college with little direction, often require extra time to graduate, and most importantly, fail to hone critical workplace skills.
Pointing Students in the Right Direction
What can teachers, counselors and parents do to help students better prepare for their future in the workforce? Following are three actions that can make a difference:
The Road To Success
Despite the alarming news from the Conference Board report, there is hope. Counselors, educators and parents can make a major difference by encouraging students to be proactive in preparing for their future. With effective guidance students will gain a better understanding of the big picture and will enter the workforce armed with the soft skills necessary to compete.
John G. Bendt is founder and owner of Career MentorPress, LLC and author of A Roadmap to Career Success---25 Tips for College Bound Students. Combining 40 years of professional experience with his passion for mentoring young people, Bendt has established himself as an expert on advising students about career planning. He can be reached through his web site at http://www.roadmaptocareersuccess.com/ .