Employers have been increasingly voicing concerns about job applicants – especially young ones – having basic job skills – what’s called soft skills.
The Idaho Department of Labor took up their cause recently with a workshop in Pocatello to help young people, typically first-time job seekers, find work. And a major focus was on the following soft skills:
- Showing up for work on time
- Proper dress and grooming
- Working well with others
- Showing initiative
- The ability to follow directions
- Strong written and verbal communication skills
- Being polite
“Soft skills are one of the key factors which can move a young person from being a job seeker to an employee,” department Regional Economist Dan Cravens told the 30 people who took part in the workshop. “We had many employers and parents in the area request that we do a workshop like this so that local youth can better understand how they need to act in order to find a job, and do well at it.”
Many of the 16-to-24-year-olds face the same challenges young people across the country face – unemployment rates over 16 percent. Unemployment rates would probably be higher for this age group, but too many young job seekers have just given up hope of finding work.
Soft job skills are not qualities related to training, know-how or education, but basic qualities related to behavior and attitude while on the job.
“I’ll give you some advice,” Kim Smith, Pocatello city human resources director, told the young people. “Don’t bring your dog to the interview. Also, don’t bring your mom and dad to the interview. People bringing their parents and pets to interviews – that sends the wrong message to an employer.”
Don’t ask for time off during an interview, Smith added to the list, and don’t send text messages to friends while talking to a hiring manager.
Mary Johnson, who owns McDonald’s restaurants in Pocatello, cautioned them to be judicious about what they put on social media sites because more and more employers check applicant social media pages such as Instagram and Facebook. There have been instances, she and others pointed out, where people lost job opportunities or were fired because of photos and statements they made on those sites.
The Idaho Department of Labor provides opportunities for young people through the Workforce Investment Act to obtain training and in-demand job skills, and it offers free services like workshops on résumé writing and interviewing skills.
Cravens, who organized the seminar, believes improving soft skills can be a real boost to local economic development.
“We know that youth who are able to find employment in our region are more likely to stay in Idaho,” he said. “Right now we need to keep as many well trained and educated young people here as possible. The more well educated and trained people we have in our workforce, the better our region is able to attract employers willing to pay high wages.”