Last week, I spoke at the AHRI Instructor’s Workshop in Baltimore. It was terrific to catch up with old friends and make new ones. The winter weather did not hinder the conference’s energy and enthusiasm.
My topic focused on how to teach Soft Skills in the Classroom. The audience was comprised of college and trade school instructors who share a passion for their student’s success. Thankfully, this topic almost always results in lively and thought-provoking discussion.
Today’s instructors bear the challenge of inspiring younger workers to consider how their attitude, tardiness and dress attire affects their chances for future employment.
Recent research indicates that 18 to 34 year olds do not understand the importance of soft skills and its impact on their employment success. This research, conducted by Bryant & Stratton College and Wakefield Research, reported that only 16% of the 18- to 34-year-olds surveyed see soft skills as necessary for career advancement.
To the contrary, 93% of U.S, employers say soft skills are “weighed more heavily” when vetting job candidates — much more so than a candidate’s college academic credentials. These soft skills include communication, teamwork, attitude and problem solving. Clearly, a gap exists between employer priorities and a student’s attitude.
The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that the market for HVACR technicians and installers will grow 34 percent through 2020. This growth exceeds all other occupations.
So with so much upside potential, why are companies struggling to find competent workers?
The answer may lie in a cultural divide among the generations in the workforce today. Based on what I hear from instructors from coast-to-coast, another factor may be humility, of the lack thereof.
The American Freshman Survey, conducted by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) has been asking college students to rate them selves compared to their peers since 1966 (more than 9 million students have taken the survey over the last 47 years).
The CIRP reported that, “Young people’s unprecedented level of self-infatuation indicates that they’re more likely to call themselves gifted in abilities, but objective test scores actually show that their abilities are far less than their 1960s counterparts.”
When I shared the above report finding in Baltimore, an instructor asked me about the solution.
My answer was to lead by example. “Let students see your ethics, fairness and tough love. Our younger workforce needs mentors and someone to look up to. Be an anchor in their life.”
The answer was the best I could do off the top of my head.
This is a busy travel month, and I will share more stories from conferences at which I will speak.
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