Sep 16

Skills of the New Workforce

In the book, A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change, the authors write that one of the major pitfalls of the 21st Century teaching model is the “belief that most of what we know will remain relatively unchanged for a long enough period of time to be worth the effort of transferring it.”

A panel led by SMT Center CEO and President Sam Houston at the NC Chamber Annual Conference on Education echoed this statement.

“The biggest challenge is that we don’t know what’s next.  We always seemsto be in catch up mode.  Some of our jobs didn’t exist 30 years ago and no one saw it coming,” said Steve Brechbiel, senior director of community relations at Quintiles. “We need to get a little ahead of that to find out where the next big need is coming from.  That’s where it’s important to work with educators.”

Brechbiel also discussed how today’s workforce comprises employees in various countries.  One workforce need is the understanding of culture, geography, time zones, and even history.

“There are people in clinical studies involved around the world,” said Brechbiel.  “You’ll have a project manager in the U.S. with participants in Europe and southeast Asia.  That did not happen years ago.”

The panel discussion looked at the relationship between business and industry and education.

“The relationship between education and the economy is a synonymous condition,” said Dr. Houston.  “If we do one well, the other will flourish.”

Several panelists felt that developing strong partnerships between some North Carolina schools and industries enable the development of a strong and talented pool of workers.

“As we ask for investments from our partners they ask us where the talent is going to come from…We’re looking at hiring assemblers and maintenance,” said Kip Blakely, vice president of industry and government relations at TIMCO.  “What’s working for us is working with schools to create works with skills specifically geared for our industry.”

The business leaders also addressed what they tend to look for in prospective employees.  And that job shadowing is a great way for businesses to see what students can bring to an organization.

“Intelligence is important, but it’s more about problem solving,” said Kip Blakely, the vice-president of industry and government relations for TIMCO Aviation Services.

However, for large and growing North Carolina populations, the lack of knowledge about job skills and prospects is still a concern.

“We need businesses to get in front of students to show them what’s out there,” said Brienne Pasick, director of the NC Society of Hispanic Professionals.  “What I know specifically about Hispanic students is that they don’t know what jobs and skills required that are out there.”

Ms. Pasick encouraged the business leaders in the audience to go out to their local schools and discuss the variety of careers that are available.

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