Soft skills aren't hard to find here

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While many employers are desperately seeking “skilled workers” they also want employees who can communicate well, resolve conflicts, solve problems, work well with others and show up on time. Wisconsin technical colleges have found ways to teach both technical skills and these “soft skills.”

Healthcare workers communicate at nurses station. Soft skills are important in any type of workplace.

The 2012 Manpower survey of employers showed 26 percent said applicants lack these soft skills. In a 2011 employer survey by the Manufacturing Institute respondents indicated “inadequate problem solving skills” as the characteristic most lacking in their workforce.

Wisconsin technical colleges have integrated communication, collaboration, responsibility, critical thinking, creativity and embracing change into core abilities and woven them into most occupational programs.

Even programs like drafting concepts, metals science and machine tool math, machine tool technician include a course in occupational communication. Students learn to avoid communication breakdown. The course strengthens students’ effective oral and written communication skills needed to apply for a job.

Donna Krischan, information technology instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC), requires her students to work in two-person teams for selected projects.

“This is intended to help with communication skills, teamwork, collaboration and, potentially conflict resolution,” Krischan says.

According to Diane Neefe, dean of Health and Public Safety Division at Western Technical College, “One of the best places for students to learn soft skills is through field work, practicums or internships. These provide a real work environment and additional stress.”

Instructors monitor students during these experiences by developing and reinforcing employer expectations. In one example, a student was unable to make it to the workplace due to car trouble. She notified the employer, but failed to notify the instructor who was going to observe that day. The student learned the importance of good communication.

At Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC), soft skills like getting to class on time are part of the core abilities for all General Studies courses. Instructors assess these as part of the courses.

“We expect students to treat their course work like a job,” said Michaeline Schmit, dean of General Studies at NWTC.

Technical colleges are listening and responding to what employers in Wisconsin want. When looking for workers with soft and specific occupational skills look for graduates of Wisconsin’s technical colleges on