Everything Counts: Soft skills increasingly vital for employers

580 200 Deb Nankivell

(Photo: WOCinTech Chat)

Whether it’s biology, physics or neuroscience; whether the knowing comes from faith or life experience, most of us are reaching the same conclusion:

We are all connected; our fates are intertwined.

Where once we could just keep moving west with “Don’t fence me in” ringing in our ears or just lock up or medicate folks that didn’t see things our way, today is different. We are here—and many members of our own families or youth who were born into or near poverty are now looking to “not be fenced in” so they have a good job and a better future.

Whether it’s being trained for a middle-class job or knowing how to act when you have a job, we live in a time where we must change how we act.

Policies, systems and leadership styles that developed from a top-down perspective based upon control, compliance and easy to measure outcomes, are seen today as constraints on what is emerging around us. The innate impulses to be free, to govern oneself and to be part of a community are natural and unrelenting. Rapid change requires us to develop the ability to adapt, initiate and work with others as the territory is always different from the conceptual map. The more bureaucratic and fixed a system, the more likely it will have long forgotten its mission and is simply a form sustaining itself.

How does this apply to specific issues and the challenges of today?

The Fresno Regional Workforce Development Board recently convened a terrific session to discuss what employers need in their workforces. At the top of every employer’s list was soft skills, the personal attributes that demonstrate confidence, self-awareness and self-mastery. People with these traits live with integrity, are terrific team members and thrive on solving problems and making things better. What is the fix? We can’t change the past. How do we help everyone develop these qualities?

Research shows that the belief that one can succeed through consistent effort is real, regardless of history. It is more powerful than family influences. Call it grit, perseverance, discipline—this is a blend of motivation and habit. We have many among us who have started in rough places. We must learn to meet them where they are, develop coaching skills and mix accountability with compassion to help them achieve a better future. Our future depends upon it, too. It is a moral and practical imperative.

Our schools are making this shift, beginning with the career and technical (CTE) programs which are expanding rapidly. Learning and teaching as teams and focused on real-life challenges, CTE bakes into its work teaching the soft skills essential for success in life and the workplace. These programs require hands-on investments of time and resources from employers to be optimally effective. Internships, externships, job shadows—everything counts.

The good news is a growing team of people across the state is mastering the art of civic stewardship, along with other critical issues, is center stage. I encourage you to check out the 2019 Roadmap to Shared Prosperity and think about how you can help. The regions of California are uniting to execute this plan. The eighth California Economic Summit will be in Fresno in November to keep score. You are invited. As you will see, the Roadmap emerged from a deep understanding of interdependence and the work is going on year-round across the state.

Water, workforce, housing and other “big issues” are the Summit’s focus. We’re glad someone is thinking about them—and hundreds of Californians are coming to Fresno to search for answers to those issues.

Deb Nankivell is CEO of the Fresno Business Council.

Part of this column was previously printed in the Fresno Business Daily.


Deb Nankivell

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