Why Soft Skills Are the Key to Growing Santa Fe’s Economy

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Guest Blog: Jamai Blivin | CEO of Innovate+Educate | February 20, 2019

A recent survey of over 130 Santa Fe employers revealed the strongest need in the workplace is for “soft” skills. Sometimes called “professional skills” or “21st century skills,” soft skills include communication, critical thinking, customer service, adaptability, and leadership—competencies needed in 90 percent of jobs across the globe.

Yet despite the high demand, traditional curriculums teach hard facts, trades, or vocational competencies—not soft skills—in order to track learning through standardized tests. Soft skills such as the ability to work well on a team, manage stress, or be emotionally resilient are more fluid and subjective.

Over the last nine years, Innovate+Educate has documented the competencies that employers from across the United States have consistently articulated are critical to entry, mid, and/or advanced role job success, and created an evidence-based measurement tool, Core Score, to accurately measure soft skills. Our research has found that when soft skills are linked with technical skills (such as IT, healthcare, project management, etc) that person is career-ready and hirable.

And it’s not just the employee that stands to benefit. A study from Boston College, Harvard University, and the University of Michigan found that soft skills training boosts productivity by 12 percent and, thanks to increased productivity and employee retention, results in a 250 percent return on investment for employers.

“By framing soft skills as a teachable discipline,” Jan Bruce, CEO of miQuilibrium, writes in Forbes, “we can position our companies to thrive in an atmosphere that runs on resilience just as much as technical know-how.”

Meeting employer needs is important as the workforce shifts in dramatic ways. For the first time in over 50 years, the number of “working learners” has surpassed the number of “traditional learners” in massive force. The traditional learner is someone that goes to school full time, may work a little, but traditionally in school “for a living”. The working learner is any age from high school to adult, working at least 20 hours per week while trying to go to school, learn a trade, or get a credential. Both nationally and in Santa Fe, the working learner is now the largest percentage of the learning population.

Many learners are working 40 hours per week to support their families, therefore education must come after economic stability. All learners- K-12, post-secondary, and working learners must be equipped with the soft skills they need to get hired. Having access to soft skill training is key for preparing Santa Fe’s workforce and growing our economy.

As part of the Opportunity Santa Fe initiative, Innovate+Educate is pleased to lead the Skill-Up Santa Fe collaborative working group, focused on increasing post-secondary and career success in our city. Key to the work is aligning learning, training and employment and ensuring that there is collaboration across the community. Skill-Up Santa Fe gives free access to the Core Score soft skills assessment, online training boot camps, and badges that can then be recognized by employers.

The Core Score assessment takes 15 minutes, and provides the learner/job seeker a score with easy to understand breakdown on how to “skill-up” for career readiness. For example, someone might do really well in customer service, but might need some training in adaptability. They are then directed to an online boot camp that provides training on their own time. All of this is at no cost to the learner or the employer wanting to provide it in their hiring process or for their own workforce.

As part of the initiative, Santa Feans can earn a badge, either through Santa Fe Community College or through the Skill-Up Santa Fe initiative. The effort will identify employers that will recognize these skills in their hiring process. Santa Fe Community College is also offering the assessment through both their Career Services department and Continuing Education.

The work of Skill-Up Santa Fe will ensure anyone in the community can assess their skills, have access to free learning tools, and open up new job opportunities. We hope that you will join us in this work!

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Innovate+Educate is a 501c3 established in Santa Fe in December 2008. The organization is nationally recognized for their work in skills-based hiring and creating new pathways to employment based on skills.

Visit the SFCC Career Services’ web page Are You Ready to Work? to access the free CoreScore work readiness assessment from Innovate+Education, and the SkillUp online training.

Interested in learning more? Contact Jamai.Blivin@innovate-educate.org