Earlier this year, U.S. News and World Report offered up an article on the new concerns of an evolving workforce. It points out that younger generation workers have been raised and educated using advanced technology and social tools for their work and networking activities. For them technology is an integrated part of their regular life – they don’t just use it to do things more efficiently as do many older workers.
But I’m not as concerned about the technology skills of future workers, as I am about some of the more intangible skills required to be a valued and productive part of any organization. I’m talking about the concept known as “Workforce Readiness” and it is a subject very near and dear to my heart. That’s because I have been a working mother since my son was 10 weeks old. Being in the Staffing Industry for my entire career, as well as coaching and mentoring youth, I have always been able to share with my son the skills necessary to be a successful employee and what is necessary to be Workforce Ready –– and I’m not talking technology.
Most young adults (junior high through high school) are not fully aware of what it takes to be part of a business team. They either have no or very limited exposure to avenues which would afford them the ability to learn what the skills are and how important it is to master them.
If a young adult is fortunate enough to get the opportunity to learn about these skills, the learning usually takes shape through internships, high school work experience programs or part-time employment. These experiences allow them to discover and learn some of the skills needed to be successful, but it is not nearly enough.
The fact is, today’s graduates need to possess skills to enhance workplace productivity and career options. These are the skills employers value today, as they have yesterday and will continue to do so in the future:
• Critical thinking
• Problem solving
• Oral and written communications
• Teamwork & Collaboration
• Global awareness & sensitivity to cultural differences
• Use of resources and technology
• Ethics and Social Responsibility
One of the most important ways students are going to learn about these skills is if a strategic alliance is formed between business and education. The business community must partner with public and private schools; vocational and technical programs as well colleges and universities to convey what these skills are and help educate those graduating and entering the workforce.
An example of a strategic alliance between the HR community and education is prevalent within The Society for Human Resource Management of Long Island (SHRM LI) and their Workforce Readiness Committee. For the past six years I have participated in this Committee for SHRM and have co-chaired it since 2009. We meet once a month and are currently involved with six high schools in the region, with another 24 schools signed on for the fall.
The committee has launched a unique virtual work experience program for grades 9 – 12, who are interested in preparing their students for College and Career Readiness. The objective of this unique program is twofold: To increase awareness of the role the human resource professional plays in the corporate world and to assist students in building workforce readiness skills while exploring human resource careers.
A fictitious virtual human resources department at “Techno Beats International” has been created to meet the above goals through ten simulated activities. SHRM volunteers, who are HR community leaders, are trained and assigned to a class to carry out the program in a classroom environment. Students who successfully complete all ten instructional lessons will be honored by the SHRM LI professional association in class and at real-world networking events. So far, over 100 students have participated in this virtual work experience program.
This is just one example of how a strategic alliance can work. If you are interested in helping our young people become workforce-ready, I welcome the opportunity to speak with you and introduce you to others who share this mission. As business leaders, we have the power to come up with so many other ways to teach these skills to young adults. In the words of the ever popular NIKE brand – “Just do it.”