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Poco Windy #25: Having the Right Stuff

In CTE, we tend to focus on the technical stuff—the “hard” stuff (the technology, the tools, the processes involving equipment). But what about the people side of the business, or the “soft” side? Soft skills are “the personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people,” as stated in one definition. It’s a little scary today when we think of how many adult role models there are with not very good soft skills. How do we do better with CTE students?

Typically, any time spent on soft people skills gets a brief look in training at best, if at all. We assume that students, eventual employees, will walk in already having those skills—that our selection processes (now so much online, not live) will be able to identify those prospects with good technical and good people skills every time. Sadly, when probationary employees don’t advance to permanent employment or longer-term employees are removed from a job, it’s usually not for lack of technical skills. It’s because of a soft skill problem on the job. What are those soft skills that should be so important in any CTE program?

Let’s take a look at soft skills. Here’s a sample skill checklist:

  • Work ethic – the belief that hard work is valuable, consistently practiced.
  • Flexibility – the quality of being easily adaptable.
  • Problem Solving – the process of finding solutions to difficult issues.
  • Teamwork – the combined effective action of a group of people.
  • Organizational skills – a set of techniques used to facilitate task completion.
  • Communication skills – active listening speaking, observing, and empathy.
  • Time Management – the process of organizing one’s time between various activities.

Soft skill lists vary, but these are generally the key skills needed by effective employees, including in the wind energy industry, by the way.

How do we teach that “stuff”? In many cases, instead of providing a set of tools for the CTE student, trainers are creating tools within the individual:

  • Mentoring – pairing up students with experienced employees with excellent soft skills.
  • Create and use videos – YouTube videos are an excellent soft skill training device.
  • Require Apprenticeships – expanding the training experience to include on-the-job.
  • Use Role-Playing – in live classrooms, requiring role-playing of necessary soft skills.
  • Post a New Poster – soft skill posters are available. Post one a month in the classroom and on your website.

These are critical skills across the energy industry, particularly in the wind industry. Teams of technicians work out of operations centers. Individual technicians communicating from atop towers. Creating solutions to problems as they are encountered in unusual situations. And the skill set goes on . . .

To be the best in a challenging industry, CTE-trained students need to have and display soft skills—“the right stuff”.

This is the home of Region 9 CTE. Thanks for dropping by.

By Dr. James Miller