A Modern Business Practice Works Its Way into Traditional Industries

Article excerpt

Many corporate executives are being sent back to school to develop the skills necessary for an ever-changing business world.

The Workforce Development and Continuing Studies Center at Kent State University's Trumbull Campus.

These days, the saying "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" just isn't true. Employees of some of the oldest industries and oldest companies in America are now learning new tricks through customized training that they can put to work for them every day in their jobs. Soft skills is a modern term used to describe the skills and savvy, apart from technical knowledge, that today's employees must posses if they are going to excel in their careers.

These skills may include enhanced communication skills, leadership skills, conflict resolution skills, or decision-making skills, to name only a few, and they are becoming increasingly important for many reasons. Soft skills have long been used when referring to the high-tech industry because these employees, after spending most of their working day in front of a computer, found interpersonal communication a challenge, especially to anyone outside the industry. But, now in an ever-changing, more global marketplace, just about every industry is finding an increasing need for soft skills for their employees, particularly those employees working their way up the corporate ladder.

If you surf the Web under the words "soft skills," dozens of sites come up, from one-person image consultants to multi-location training companies with offices in various states. This underscores the growing popularity in this type of training. Master's and doctorate degrees are no longer proof enough of a person's qualifications; how a person interacts with others is oftentimes even more paramount.

Kent State University's Trumbull Campus first realized the need for soft skills training in the early 1990s. Although the campus already had a workforce development and continuing studies center opened since 1972, this department was known for offering "fun, non-credit" courses, such as flower arranging, cooking classes and foreign language classes, according to the department's director Margaret Croyts. Now, however, the focus has shifted to workforce classes and employers come to the department requesting courses for their employees.

Located in the heartland of America, far away from high-tech Silicon Valley, the Trumbull campus' clients tend to fall more in the old-school manufacturing, automotive, and fabrication industries. Employers such as Delphi Packard Electric Systems, General Motors, General Electric, and Therm-O-Link, have put the campus' workforce development classes to work for them and their employees.

"People are still the ones running the plants, building the cars, etc.," states Croyts.

She notes that the top skills employers are looking for today include team building, problem solving, conflict resolution, communication and time management. Stress management, she says, is tied into time management because employees today are wearing more hats than ever before. She feels that team building will especially take on even greater importance in the years to come. …