Less than a month ago, a group of key community stakeholders met to begin the process of building a new partnership between the private sector and public education in Rush County. Involved in the initial meeting were representatives from both the city and county, the Chamber of Commerce, the ECDC, and Rush County Schools. I can’t recall when I’ve been as optimistic about a positive outcome as I am about this coalition of organizations.
The basic idea is to help high school students become more aware of real world employer expectations, including things like hard skills, educational requirements, and what are often called, somewhat mysteriously, soft skills. According to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, “Soft skills are personal attributes that enhance an individual’s interactions, job performance, and career prospects. Unlike hard skills, which are about a person’s skill set and ability to perform a certain type of task or activity, soft skills relate to a person’s ability to interact effectively with coworkers and customers and are broadly applicable both in and outside the workplace.”
I would also include additional soft skills that many young job seekers lack: things like showing up for work on time, expecting to do a full day’s work for a full day’s pay, and not missing work unnecessarily. Also my expanded definition of soft skills includes interviewing skills, communication skills, and the innate desire to succeed – no matter what the task may be.
In my opinion, over the years there has been a disconnect between the private sector and public education. Not that either has been unaware of the other, but to the extent that there has been little interaction between the two in any ongoing way.
The scope of the interaction that’s possible is limited only by the imagination of the stakeholders with regard to what can be accomplished. Some job shadowing has gone on between Rush Memorial Hospital and the high school, which is great, but more job shadowing needs to take place for more high school students to really get a good idea of what a manufacturing manager, for example, does on a daily basis and understand what it takes to become a manufacturing manager in the first place.