College or Bust? Don’t Forget the “Soft Skills”

A recent story on NPR’s All Things Considered caught our attention for two reasons. First, it opened with a report from a coffee bar in Willamette High School in Eugene, Oregon.  (Seriously, a coffee bar inside a high school? How cool is that?) Second – and much more importantly – it made the point that whether college is in the cards for students or not, schools can and should do a better job at preparing high school graduates for the world of work.

At the Willamette coffee bar, students learn how to work a cash register, handle money, juggle multiple orders, adhere to food safety and quality standards, and provide quality customer service. These are all the “soft skills” that more and more employers expect, according to the report.

“Roughly seven out of 10 high school grads are headed to college every year — but that leaves hundreds of thousands who aren’t. And survey after survey shows that employers are demanding — even of college-bound students — some level of job skills and professionalism: punctuality, customer service, managing people and teamwork,” says reporter Claudio Sanchez.

The story highlights the school alliance with DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) a program that has exposed high schoolers to real-world work skills since the 1940s. It covers multiple industries, from manufacturing to etail sales to entrepreneurship to graphic design – all of which supply skills students can eventually apply to careers, whether they attend college or not.

Given the rising cost of higher education and the blossoming number of careers that rely on more technical skills, wouldn’t it make sense to prepare students for college and career instead of one of the other?

Advocacy and Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) is proud to partner with Corporation for a Skilled Workforce (CSW), which catalyzes nationwide transformative change in education, economic, and workforce development through research and action. Learn more about ACS workforce clients here.

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