For organizations working with Opportunity Youth, the mission is to position students for long-term employment. Obviously, the thought and work that goes into doing this is more complex than the mission statement sounds. There are a number of different philosophies for how to most effectively train and skill students. But, a common starting place is to look at the data to understand the local economy and determine which jobs and technical skills are in demand.

It makes perfect sense: If you teach students in-demand, job-specific skills, they will be more marketable and likely enjoy long-term employment. And, your organization will succeed in its mission of enabling Opportunity Youth to enter or re-enter the workforce.

However, creating career-ready employees not only involves teaching them the technical skills to do the job, but also the Power Skills, commonly referred to as soft skills, core skills, or essential skills, to succeed on the job. Hard skills may help land the interview, but soft skills are needed to get " and keep " the job.  

The following are three steps your organization can take to help build Power Skills that will ultimately set your students apart and increase successful outcomes for your organization.

1) Communicate the importance of Power Skills training in the workplace

Invest in programs and tools that teach powere skills, and communicate to your students why these skills are so crucial for their future success. Explain to students that there is a clear correlation between possessing well-developed Power Skills and gaining employment. Encourage them to invest time and energy into developing these skills so they can differentiate themselves in the job market.

Employers recognize the importance and need for Power Skills in the workplace at every stage of the employee lifecycle, yet the statistics below suggest that employers struggle to develop these skills internally or find new employees who possess them. In other words, there is a huge demand for soft skills that your students can take advantage of.

  • The Number 1 skill HR professionals said was needed of new hires in the last 12 months was soft skills such as communication, teamwork, or problem solving.1
  • 40% of executives said a lack of soft skills was the biggest proficiency gap they saw in the U.S. workforce.2

2) Focus on skills that translate across a range of industries 

The most valued types of soft skills may differ from one employer to the next. While there is no definitive ranking, several models have been created to outline the universal sets of skills applicable across all professions and industries.

Below are some of the skills employers want, are applicable to any job or profession, and most closely correlate to long-term career success. If your aim is to develop career-ready individuals, then you'll want to ensure your students possess these skills before completing your program.

Personal Effectiveness Skills 

Integrity manifests itself through behavior such as demonstrating respect for company time and property and accepting responsibility for decisions and actions.

Employers need workers who are accountable to one another, completing what they commit to doing consistently and dependably, even when unmonitored.

Adaptable employees are able to adjust rapidly to make a deadline and pick up new skills as technology evolves or processes change.

Employees who are good communicators tend to deliver better experiences to customers, improving customer loyalty and boosting sales.

An employees' ability to collaborate and effectively work with others is paramount to getting projects done and creating a positive work environment for the entire workforce.

Workplace Competencies

Employees who are respectful and tolerant of others will be better able to work within an organization. They will also be better equipped to help organizations serve a diverse range of customers.

Customer Focus
Customer focus enables employees to actively discern market demands, and identify and anticipate customer needs.

Employees who can plan and organize effectively are able to help their companies meet deadlines and get tasks done even when resources are scarce.

Problem-Solving & Decision-Making
By fostering the problem-solving and decision-making skills of their employees, organizations will know the individuals in their workforce can handle unanticipated problems that arise, particularly in relations with customers.

Working with Tools & Technology
Workers who are skilled at working with tools and technology possess the ability to select, use and maintain appropriate technical means to execute workplace activity and solve problems.

3) Take an interactive approach to skills development 

In practice, students won't learn the intricacies of teamwork, the subtleties of communication, or understand what integrity and responsibility are by memorizing the definitions or being lectured on the importance of Power Skills to their future. Developing Power Skills does not happen by reading a textbook. It comes from dynamic environments and interacting with others on an interpersonal level. Whether the goal is to teach students a new hard or soft skill, teaching new skills should incorporate academic learning and hands-on experience.

Using interactive learning methodologies, instructors can create dynamic lesson plans that challenge their students to adapt to new environments, tackle new situations with integrity and improve critical thinking skills, and generally put them in environments that push them to develop the aforementioned Power Skills.

There are a number of strategies that you can use here, including establishing mentorship programs, enabling extracurricular activities for students, or partnering with a skills training provider with the purpose of developing these essential Power Skills.

Penn Foster's Career Readiness Bootcamp is one such example of a modular skills training solution designed to help develop these essential Power Skills for students at your organization. Self-paced and with the ability to seamlessly integrate into an existing blended learning environment, this solution can help instructors teach these vital workplace skills in an engaging manner. To learn more about the solution, click here

Sources: Photo Credit. (1) America's Skills Challenge: Millennials and the Future (2) Adecco Staffing USA