Ivy Tech Community College students working on their workforce-readiness skills

Here’s how to help students hone soft skills

Ivy Tech Community College helps students tackle workforce readiness and soft skills with technology

Every college student’s dream is to land the perfect job upon graduating, yet a GPA of 4.0 doesn’t always correlate to good job prospects. In fact, most students who graduate from college don’t even feel prepared to take on the real world because they know it takes a lot more than “book smarts” or hard skills to be successful. A 2017 Strada-Gallup survey found that 34 percent of 32,000 students surveyed don’t believe that they will graduate with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the job market.

In my former role as executive director of career development at Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana, I provided leadership and oversight to Ivy Tech’s 19 career-development offices, including raising the profile of career development to internal and external stakeholders.

Assessing job readiness and soft skills

I found a solution to help students tackle workforce readiness when I discovered the Am I Job Ready platform, powered by PSI Services, a global workforce solutions provider that combines science, technology, and expertise to enable opportunities for professional growth, talent enhancement, and retention.

Am I Job Ready provides educators and organizations with a single platform to assess, develop, track progress, and report on career readiness and employability. Many education institutions use the platform to drive competency-based learning initiatives that prepare students and job seekers with the skills that business leaders say are essential to success in the 21st century workforce: initiative, decision-making, teamwork, etc.

Ivy Tech was one of the first colleges to adopt the program, and faculty across 19 campuses in Indiana are now in their third year of using it for their students. They decide which courses and programs to embed Am I Job Ready into and can easily create assignments within their learning management systems. First-year seminar and internship classes are some of the many courses that embed Am I Job Ready.

For students, Am I Job Ready is a thorough, fast, and fun experience. It takes about six to eight hours to complete and uses bite-size video simulations on topics such as creativity, problem solving, and teamwork.

Gaining 21st-century workforce skills

Level 1 helps users find their path to a rewarding career and see their strengths, and Level 2 shares videos for students to develop proficiencies in 16 soft skills and more than 70 key learning outcomes. Level 3, the last level and one of my favorites, enables students to demonstrate mastering each competency by taking a situational judgment test. While students typically struggle to transfer what they learn in a classroom to a work environment, this step puts students in the work environment and proves they are learning workplace-readiness concepts.

Our students at Ivy Tech have appreciated the chance to identify and develop their soft skills through Am I Job Ready. We surveyed 126 students and they gave us the following feedback about the platform’s effectiveness in preparing students to use workforce readiness skills in the workplace:

  • Critical thinking/problem solving: 90%
  • Professionalism/work ethic: 92%
  • Teamwork/collaboration: 89%
  • Oral/written communications: 82%

The skills companies need

Students who participate in the workforce-readiness program can add it to their resumes, as employers have offered guaranteed interviews for students that have completed the program.
Northeastern University’s 3rd Innovation Imperative Poll, a national survey of C-Suite executives and business leaders, found that 87 percent contend that most college grads lack the most important skills needed to succeed: creativity and critical thinking. Let’s combat this for our students and for future generations.

For universities and faculty looking to integrate soft skills and career readiness into their portfolio of offerings, I recommend looking into PSI’s Am I Job Ready or a similar platform. Invite employers into the classroom to present to your students, which will give them the opportunity to interact with an employer and put the soft skills they’ve learned to the test. They may even land an interview in the process!

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