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Soft Skills: The Other Side of Construction

Workforce Development

By Kirstyn Quandt, Communications Manager for NCCER, from NCCER blog

What defines a craft professional?

Technical skill constitutes a large portion of the job description, but the professionalism of our industry is further illustrated by the work ethic, communication and teamwork present on each and every construction site. These fundamental skills, often referred to as soft skills or employability skills, play a vital role in the productivity and safety of our workforce. While construction’s heavy lifting is what often makes headlines, it’s time we give the ambition behind it all some recognition.

Imagine a construction site where there is little to no communication, a lack of teamwork and no leadership or sense of project direction. When heavy machinery is added to the mix, you have the makings of one terrifying image. With quality of work and safety at the forefront of our industry’s mission, soft skills are an integral part of the process.

Unfortunately, many students across the country are lacking such vital skills. We are inadvertently taught that if we simply show up, do the homework and pass a test, our pre-employment checklist is complete. But what happens after graduation when we land our first interview and are challenged in 30 minutes to sell our skill set? Many struggle to effectively and confidently communicate their strengths, potential and passion for the industry.

This gap in effective communication is a two-fold problem. Blame can partially be attributed to society’s reliance on technology. Somewhere between our thoughts being dictated by 140 characters and emotions being conveyed, and often times misconstrued, via text message, we lost critical employability skills and the ability to effectively communicate and interact amongst teammates, coworkers and supervisors.

The other half of this issue stems from education’s reliance on standardized testing. Missing amidst the math, science and English sections where we attempt to solve cleverly worded riddles and complex trigonometry equations are sections focusing on the development of a sound work ethic, effective communication and the importance of teamwork. While we can read and infer from examples found in formal textbooks, students need to be taught the vast importance of soft skills in all industries and truly be prepared for life beyond the hallways of high school.

As part of NCCER’s commitment to building a sustainable workforce, our Core Curriculum: Introductory Craft Skillsincludes modules focused specifically on the development of these basic communication and employability skills. Those entering the industry learn techniques for effective communication with coworkers and supervisors along with critical thinking and problem solving skills. As we revamp our recruitment efforts and work to change the perception of careers in construction, it’s important we remember the intrinsic value of soft skills in our future workforce.

Leaders and team players are the individuals that, after acquiring and refining their technical skills, will create a prosperous and thriving talent pipeline. From there, the effect will be contagious. These ambitious individuals will become the future leaders of our industry and recruit likeminded professionals for a continuous cycle of progress. After all, underneath the hard hat, it is the fundamental skills of our craft professionals that make our industry safe and sustainable.

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