There’s a good reason to get your teenager off the couch and out the door for work. Studies show that “work experiences are a critical component of preparing youth for
transition to adulthood.” In particular, early work experiences – especially those in which the work is combined with a targeted skills training component – help young people develop those elusive “soft skills” for which employers are increasingly seeking in their entry-level employees.
Soft-Soft Skill Training Remains Largely Elusive for Most Youth
Although employers are increasingly seeking soft-skills in their new employees, acquiring specific, targeted skills training remains elusive for youth. Perhaps the challenge stems from a systemic lack of agreement as to what constitutes the most needed skills.
Consider, the skills a full-service grocery score might be seeking. Entry level employees will likely be assigned as cashiers, grocery baggers, and cart pushers and will likely have a job title something to the effect of “Customer Service Specialist.” The soft skills for such a position will likely include the ability to quickly form positive interactions with strangers, the ability to follow verbal instructions, and the ability to handle unwarranted criticism. On the other hand, the skills required by a receptionist in an office suite. While the ability to quickly form positive interactions will undoubtedly prove useful for the receptionist, that position will also require exceptional phone skills, organization, and the ability to work independently. The point is, there is no standard definition of what constitutes soft skills because each employer will value / need different skills. And, consequently, without a standard definition of what constitutes soft-skills, it is virtually impossible for inexperienced young people to zero in on the specific skills that will help them the most.
Better to Develop “Transferable Skills”
Soft-skills may be elusive and ill-defined, but there are skills that easily transfer from one job and employer to another. If young people get targeted skills training in these, they can do well on any job. According to Phillip Lee, former CEO at PHT Corporation, there are seven “transferable skills” that will help anyone in the workforce.
Transferable Skill #1 – The Ability to Collaborate and Work Well Within a Team
The skill most sought after by employers is the ability to work effectively with others toward a common goal. Effective collaborators are proactive rather than reactive, they lead rather than follow. Their interactions engender trust and mutual respect between team members. They take action while respecting both the needs and contributions of others. Contributors work toward and accept the group’s consensus, and they negotiate a win-win solution to achieve team objectives.
Transferable Skill #2 – Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
Critical thinking is the ability to provide deliberate, focused thought on a specific problem through to resolution. Its usefulness to an employer in any job setting. Those with such skills develop solutions where others only give a shoulder-shrug and wait to be told what to do.
Transferable Skill #3 – Leadership
The third most desired skill employees need to develop is leadership. Leaders are action makers –they also inspire others to do an exceptional job even while they work hard themselves. Good leader do not simply motivate expedient actions – they inspire right actions. And they will help others to take such actions. Leaders inspire a vision that others want to follow. By doing so they set the team direction and are able to create something new. Leadership focuses on mapping out how to arrive at the win-win solution. Genuine leadership is more than inspiring – it is dynamic motivation that produces the best in others.
Transferable Skill #4 – Excellent Verbal Communications
Verbal communication skills goes beyond simply learning how not to say “Um” when speaking in front of a group. It also includes learning to direct a cogent conversation with one person to a win-win solution, and being able to genuinely hear and respond to what the other person is saying.
Transferable Skill #5 – Excellent Written Communications
Employers’ desire for excellent verbal communication skills is followed very closely by their desire for excellent written communication skills. Writing an advertisement is very different from writing a sales proposal. Writing about threats to computer safety to a group of IT administrators is very different than writing about the same issue to a board of directors.
Transferable Skill #6 – Computer Application Skills
Computers are a part of daily life. That is not about to change anytime soon. It doesn’t matter if you are an IT professional, a financial analyst, a graphic designer, or working in the mail room. Computers are everywhere and you need to know how to be proficient with the applications that others in your field and profession use.
Transferable Skill #7 – Analytic Skills
Proficient analysis skills will allow you to efficiently look at the various parts of a given situation, consider the merits and costs of each part, and examine how those various parts fit and interact together. Analytical skills are not the same a critical thinking skills. The latter keep you on track and on task; the former allows solutions to be discovered as you keep on track.
Targeted Skills Training for Transferable Skills
Developing transferable skills is a two-part process. The first part involves an educational / training component, such as may be found through TransformED. Personal trainers work with individuals, either one-on-one or in a small group setting, utilizing well-developed procedures that target specific skills. In as little as 12 – 24 weeks trainees can develop or strengthen underlying skills and transferable skills sufficiently to meet or exceed personal goals.
The second part involves exposure to real work experiences – either paid or unpaid – that allows the young person to practice the developing skills in a live, real-life environment. Working as a receptionist or customer services specialist, volunteering at a local non-profit, even mowing the neighborhood lawn provide an excellent opportunity to practice and apply transferable skills even while receiving training.
So roust your teenager off the couch, start a job search, and check into targeted skills training through TransformED.