by Joni Inman, Executive Director Jefferson County Business Education Alliance
Representatives from Jefferson County businesses, large and small, have been meeting in a series of roundtable discussions since April to talk about the skills that Jefferson County students should have as they enter the work world. Employers shared experiences they’ve had with job applicants and employees at various levels and in a variety of industries.
Some commonalities emerged. Many participants observed that soft skills seem to be lacking with early entrants to the work world: character, trustworthiness, dependability, and the ability to effectively handle failure. Employers also indicated that a higher level of communication skills is needed: English language, writing, and grammar.
Problem identification skills, not just problem solving skills, are also in short supply. Roundtable members voiced concerns that traditional education provides excellent training for problem solving but lacks training on how to identify whether a problem actually exists. With the trend toward teaching students leadership skills, employers have suggested that we should also be teaching when it is appropriate to lead and when it is appropriate to follow the lead of others.
The Jefferson County Business Education Alliance (JCBEA) is bringing together the business and education communities to ensure that students graduate with skills that prepare them for the workplace. Similar statewide efforts are underway; however, this discussion, and the resulting Workforce Ready Skills, are specific to Jefferson County employers and students.
After months of discussion, employers and educators have developed a list of 30 essential Career Ready Skills. Specific behaviors have been identified in Professional and Entrepreneurial Development; Personal and Interpersonal Development; and Academic Development. The list now is being taken to the broader business community for feedback, including ideas on how these skills can actually be measured.
Once refined, after broad discussion, the JCBEA will present the proposed skill set to the Board of Education. The proposal will incorporate recommendations regarding which skills ought to be the school district’s responsibility and which ones the business community is willing to step up and help take responsibility for through workshops, job shadow opportunities, on-the-job training, entrepreneurship training, etc.
This partnership truly aligns with the outcomes of the recent Vision 2020 planning Jefferson County Public Schools conducted with input from more than 70 members of the community, including teachers, parents, students, and community groups. An outcome of that effort was to prioritize connecting students to career and life aspirations, and to enhance partnerships with the business community.
The JCBEA already provides workforce ready training to high school students, and has utilized the outcomes of the employer roundtable discussions to structure the classes within the workshops. Thanks to the business community’s generous sponsorships, JCBEA is able to provide this training at no cost to the student. All classes are taught after school hours, by Jeffco business people who donate their time and skills.
For a presentation of the Workforce Ready Skills to your professional organization or business group, please contact Joni@JCBEA.org.
The Jefferson County Business Education Alliance is an independent 501 (c)(3) organization. You can learn more at www.JCBEA.org.
Joni Inman is a professional business consultant. She is also the former VP of Public Affairs for St. Anthony Hospital, deputy city manager and Director of the Mayor’s Office for the City of Lakewood, and covered Jefferson County as a newspaper reporter. She and her four children are all graduates of Jefferson County Public Schools.