This was originally published on Forbes.com.
“Career Readiness” is in the eye of the beholder, or in this case the different eyes of the employer, employee, or job candidate. I work at Penn Foster—not Webster’s Dictionary—but my colleagues and I define career readiness as the process of learning the “soft skills” that people need in order to be successful in their careers and in their adult lives.
Whether you agree with that definition or not, I’m sure you can agree that career readiness is a hot topic, and that “soft skills” have quickly become one of the most desired qualities employers want from new employees—especially those just out of school and entering the workplace. In fact, research conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and Stanford Research Center found that 85% of job success comes from having well-developed soft and people skills, and only 15% of job success comes from technical skills and knowledge.
Penn Foster, the online education and skills training company for which I serve as Chief Outcomes Officer, has worked closely with employers for decades, and we have heard increasing feedback from employers regarding students being truly career-ready. We addressed that concern last year with the launch of our nine-module, for-credit Career Readiness Bootcamp, which we offer directly to students and through employer partners. The program was built on industry frameworks including the U.S. Department of Labor’s Career Onestop Competency Models to ensure it’s relevant across industries and meets employers’ needs.
Prior to launching the bootcamp, we had invited more than 50 of our Student Ambassadors to enroll and to test its efficacy. It was especially gratifying when one young man, who was initially skeptical of his need to learn these skills, became an ambassador of the bootcamp himself.
Marckus Perez said he was drifting as a teenager growing up near Atlantic City, NJ. After a number of issues caused him to drop out of high school, Marckus found himself trying to figure out how he was going to make it in the world. First, he made his way to Job Corps and earned his high school equivalency. Feeling motivated to continue learning, he discovered Penn Foster and enrolled in the Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Course, with the ultimate goal of becoming a park ranger. We knew he worked full-time in addition to his Penn Foster course load, but that also made him a great candidate for the Career Readiness Bootcamp.
“Our student liaison talked about what the bootcamp was, and how it helped prepare you for the future,” said Marckus. “I remember previously being offered some workplace readiness training, but at that point in my life I thought I knew everything and didn’t think I needed it.” Once he enrolled and started taking the assignments, he realized how much insight the program contained. “It was a lot of information I didn’t know, and I found out I could improve things I’d never thought about,” he continued.” I didn’t think the workplace actually looked at these types of skills. It was all things I wasn’t bringing to the table at my job at [men’s clothing store] DXL.”
Prior to enrolling in the Career Readiness Bootcamp , Marckus thought he might be promoted at DXL, and when he wasn’t, he became unhappy and disinterested. But once in the bootcamp, he embraced it, especially the modules on communication, integrity, teamwork and problem solving.