System assisting Alabama businesses with ‘soft skills’ challenge

The Alabama Community College System Chancellor Mark Heinrich said the System frequently hears complaints about the poor workplace skills of young workers today. In fact, research shows that 85 percent of workers who lose their job do so because their “soft skills” don’t measure up, he said.

“You may just expect that a young person will grow up and know how to shake hands, but that’s not always the case,” Heinrich said. “Not everyone understands that you need to show up on time, how to dress appropriately for the job or how to get along with others at work.”

ACCS is taking steps to help students develop the values and interpersonal skills required to not just get a job but also to be successful in their careers. Currently, the System’s Ready-to-Work (RTW) program provides career pathway and essential “soft skills” training for adults who are not enrolled in college and have limited education and employment experience.

Building upon the success and the underlying principles of the RTW program, ACCS plans to launch a “soft skills” pilot program designed to prepare college students for the realities of the workplace.

During the 2013 program year, the RTW program served 1,400 students in fiscal 2013, helping nearly 650 of them secure employment and nearly 200 others to enroll in college to further their education. The program is run in partnership with AIDT and the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development.

Recently, Heinrich served as chair of the Soft Skills subcommittee of Governor Robert Bentley’s College and Career Ready Task Force, which provided recommendations on how to answer state workforce development needs. Working in tandem with the K-12 System, Heinrich said the goal is to produce better students for college and better workers for business and industry.

Heinrich’s goal is to help students understand that both technical and interpersonal skills are critical for success in the workplace.

"We've found through the years that most individuals, if they know that these are important, they are very eager to learn and incorporate those into their skill sets," he said in a report published by Birmingham News.

Governor Bentley is considering the task force’s recommendations and could announce new initiatives to improve the “soft skills” of young workers in Alabama.