Working together, employers and tech colleges address the growing need for soft skills

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By Erin Eagan

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Adults sitting around in a circle talking

Besides seeking technical skills, today’s employers want workers who are problem solvers, critical thinkers, leaders and communicators. As today’s employers know, however, finding these types of qualified candidates can prove challenging. “It appears that candidates lack soft skills employers come to expect on the job,” says Rhonda Roehrig, Career Instructor, Moraine Park Technical College. “This could be the result of our changing world… technology, motivations, driving forces, etc.”

A common misconception about soft skills is that you’re either born with them, or you’re not. This simply isn’t true. All of the most in-demand soft skills can be developed with the proper education. By working with local employers to address these needs, Wisconsin’s technical colleges produce graduates who are valued for both their technical and their soft skills.

Roehrig has some advice for employers looking to fill current and future job openings. “Take a good look at candidates who have graduated from a technical college,” she says. “… candidates who have experienced soft skill development as part of their programs.”

She continues, “Technical college classroom environment mirrors a work environment, enabling instructors to teach and reinforce expected soft skills. Instructors have experience in the real world and bring those experiences to the classroom. They are better able to give examples and model appropriate work behaviors.”

Mark Tyler, president of OEM  Fabricators, Inc., goes even further and encourages employers who are struggling to find candidates with the necessary soft skills to consider forming a business/education partnership. “Work with the technical colleges to build a relationship that will lead to a supply of qualified employees with occupational skills and soft skills,” he advises.

In addition to being an employer himself, Tyler serves on the boards of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS), the Wisconsin Technology Council, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Governor’s Council on Workforce Investment so he knows first-hand the challenges today’s employers face. “It takes time to build a pipeline of new team members and the fastest way to accomplish this is by building a relationship with the educational programs that address your skills needs.”

Your local technical college can also help build these skills within your current staff. You may have a talented group of employees when it comes to technical skills, but that doesn’t mean much for your overall success if they can’t work well together. Experienced training professionals work with employers to develop a customized training program for their employees. For more information, reach out to the employee training contact person at your local technical college.