Being a first-time entrant into the professional workforce can be a daunting endeavor for some. Many times, this has nothing to do with the educational or professional requirements of a job. In most cases, people have training and a basic understanding of the job’s expectations.
However, they may not have as firm a grasp on some of the other less pronounced aspects of a job. These are the so-called soft skills that many employers find missing in those who have been recently hired. Soft skills include interpersonal communication, professional dress and decorum, dealing with supervisors and co-workers in a professional manner, and understanding the basics of workplace etiquette.
Too many newly minted members of the workforce show up unaware of what constitutes business professional attire or they may be under the impression that every interaction with another person can be handled through smartphone applications. Employers know this is not true as most workplaces require deftly navigating emotional and relational challenges that can come with virtually any job.
Along those lines, it is refreshing to see the Canyon Independent School District addressing these matters through an important four-day program called Competitive Edge Week, during which students receive the opportunity to “practice” often missing soft skills such as eye contact, dressing professionally and communicating directly. These are some of the most important workplace attributes young people can exhibit in an increasingly competitive, diverse and dynamic professional world.
Those who have been working for some time may wonder about this and think soft skills come naturally. Well, that was then and this is now. The advent of technology and ubiquitous nature of social media has contributed to what can only be described as relational vacuums. It should be pointed out some employers have taken a proactive approach to the issue. For example, United Supermarkets, which hires workers as young as 15, intentionally trains its workforce about basic workplace comportment and the importance of face-to-face communication.
For the Canyon ISD, this initiative is all about helping young people be successful and maximize their potential, and it’s safe to say the program has been well-received by the student body as more than 675 are participating in this, the second year of Competitive Edge Week. It’s also seen as a welcome move by local employers.
“We started talking to different businesses … asking what kind of skills did they expect from their employees,” Canyon ISC assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction Cameron Rosser said in a story that appeared in our Tuesday edition. “Every single one of those businesses said they need students who understand time management, who understand conflict-resolution and understand how to act professional.”
All of those skills transfer beyond the workplace, by the way, and provide people with a sense of confidence in their dealings with others. On a similar note, it is gratifying to see volunteers from a number of area employers of all sizes participating and sharing their knowledge with these young people. As everyone knows, the students of today are the leaders of tomorrow.
The Canyon ISD program includes students from kindergarten through 12th grade and focuses on relational fundamentals likely to be encountered in the workplace. Seniors who attend get the added benefit of participating in a 30-minute mock interview with business and community members to help them further prepare for entering the workforce, according to our story.
It is no secret that student success contributes to community success. This program allows young people to experience firsthand the truth that not all education occurs inside a classroom.