Wanted: employees who have soft skills

ESCANABA — Last week I had the pleasure of meeting with the president of Northern Michigan University (NMU), Dr. Fritz Erickson and a variety of business leaders from Delta County. The purpose of this meeting was to determine how we could work together to improve opportunities for students in our community. Since I have had the privilege of joining the team at Delta-Schoolcraft ISD (DSISD) in 2015, I have participated in a variety of these meetings. You would think our business partners would be worried about applicants with better literacy, math or technical skills. What did we talk about again? The importance of students having soft skills. Our business partners want employees who can get to work on time, communicate with their colleagues in face-to-face conversations, solve problems and be able to work for multiple hours at a time without looking at their phone or their smartwatch.

In the hour we spent discussing this issue, Dr. Erickson described the soft skills curriculum they are developing at NMU. I reviewed how we cover these topics in our Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes at DSISD and how our friends at Bay College and local school districts are trying to educate students on the real world that exists past their phone screens and video games. The latest video game sensation Fortnite, may be fun and it has made some people incredibly rich, but it is not helping our students develop the skills they need to have a successful career.

Your local colleges, school districts, and businesses are all in agreement, you do not need a four-year college degree to be successful. That path works for some of our students but intelligence can be measured in so many other areas. I can solve a wide variety of math problems, but can’t replace an alternator on a car. I can balance a chemical equation, but can’t run a welder or a lathe. College and education was my path. What is your path? If you can get to work on time, pass a drug test and are willing to attend training to improve your skills, I know a variety of business leaders who want you to apply. The opportunity to earn a living in our community has never been better in the last 30 years. Are you willing to put down the joystick, cell phone and take advantage of it?

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Doug Leisenring is superintendent of the Delta-Schoolcraft Intermediate School District

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