Regardless of your field of study or career aspirations, it is a fact that all employers have a common set of expectations of all prospective employees – traits and abilities such as punctuality, fundamental literacy and numeracy, honesty and ethics, the capacity for both team-work and individual initiative, a regard for health-and-safety, etc..
Because these “soft skills” are universally demanded, the college has strived to incorporate them within the curriculum of every program – by, at the very least, directing faculty members to frequently talk about “real work-world” scenarios to students.
Many students, also, are introduced to employers’ expectations by the work-placements that are now included in most program offerings.
And, finally, the school’s Student Services Department fosters an appreciation of soft skills through various special presentations and programs.
An update about the latter was presented to the college’s Board of Governors during its February 28th meeting. It explained:
St. Clair College is dedicated to supporting student and graduate outcomes that are aligned to meet the needs of its stakeholders. St. Clair provides its students with 21st-century transformational learning experiences and experiential and entrepreneurial opportunities, so that they are successful in obtaining rewarding careers. Students develop Soft Skills and Essential Employability Skills (EES), together with the practical skills needed for the ever-changing and evolving labour market. This helps to address industry needs by preparing students for success with fulfilling careers and satisfying the recruitment needs of local, regional and provincial employers.
Career Services has been strategically positioned to support students in a variety of ways. While traditionally Career Services supports students with career and employment objectives, the services and supports offered also include a range of activities to increase Soft Skills. Often employers are indicating that Soft Skills are equally or more important when hiring as compared to hard skills.
Career Services offers services for students and employers through in person meetings, email, telephone, website and the St. Clair College CareerCentral electronic portal. Career Services activities and mechanisms to support students include:
1. Resume critique and feedback – Providing coaching and assisting students to identify and articulate their Soft Skills; reviewing and assisting students to locate the EES that are provided in their course outlines which form part of their learning in achieving course/program outcomes.
2. Interview Preparation – Providing coaching and assisting students in preparation for interviews with prospective employers. This includes mock interviews and preparing for and excelling with virtual interviews.
3. Offering workshops and class presentations to assist students on the above topics.
4. The Industry Liaison Office assists employers with navigating the 120-plus programs to identify students and graduates who will meet their workforce needs, highlighting the Vocational Learning Outcomes (VLO -hard skills) as well as the EES Soft Skills that an employer could expect from a graduate of a particular program.
5. The following career fairs were hosted by Career Services to-date, with two additional fairs scheduled for March and April, including one in Chatham:
• Health Care Career Fair, September 27: 12 employers in attendance, 300 students attended;
• Career Fair, November 1: 40 employers, 700 students;
• First Responders Career Fair, January 25: 12 employers, 400 students;
• Jameson Employer Day: 30 students.
Having direct contact and building relationships with hiring managers allows for staff to have good insight with respect to employers’ needs and work with students to help them understand employers’ needs. This additional insight provides students with an opportunity to reflect on their strengths/skill sets and express these to a prospective employer.
As shown in the above chart, there is an increase in the number of services provided when compared to 2021-22. Career Services will continue to support our students in their journey to be job-ready.
OTHER SOFT SKILLS PROGRAMS
THRIVES is the online Toolbox for Help and Resources to Increase Value and Empower Students. The Strategies for Success module was completed by 5,285 students this year. Some of the soft skills addressed include the following: goal-setting, importance of attitude, setting priorities, taking responsibility, self-management, problem solving, diversity and what it really means, planning skills, organization skills and tools, time management, interview skills, resume writing, communication skills.
STUDENT GOVERNMENT OFFERINGS
A Volunteer Fair provides students with the opportunity to volunteer within the Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent communities, providing students with valuable “on the job” experience.
Workshops and sessions were also offered, including student career development (resume and interview prep), financial literacy, community involvement, success after the classroom, using social media to help obtain a job, communication styles, wellness sessions, etc.
There are numerous activities and opportunities woven within the specific academic program curricula that support soft skill development for students. The following is a sample of such initiatives:
Interpersonal – Classroom discussions, group projects and work integrated learning initiatives develop and reinforce skills such as empathy, patience, positive reinforcement, and diplomacy. Students are expected to display respect for the diverse opinions, values, belief systems, and contributions of others during these assignments.
Students have access to Cross Cultural Awareness/Cultural Competency Training, LinkedIn Learning courses, and course materials to reiterate these competencies.
Teamwork – Group projects where students collaborate, coordinate, cooperate and adapt to complete a particular task or assignment. Students recognize the need for personal accountability in the team setting and the value of their peers’ contributions.
Problem Solving/Critical Thinking - Students learn to apply appropriate skills systematically to both anticipate and solve problems in the work environment.
Communication – Through various means of work integrated learning and community partnerships, students achieve effective oral, written, and non-verbal communication skills, including active listening.
Adaptability – Work integrated learning encompassed in-program outcomes provides students the ability to quickly change and adapt their behaviours to face forthcoming challenges and obstacles effectively.
Time Management - Practice in the coordination of tasks and activities to maximize the effectiveness of the students’ efforts is embedded in all facets of classroom and extracurricular activities. Prioritization, delegation and multi-tasking capabilities are reiterated through coursework and work integrated learning.
MORE STORIES FROM THE BOARD OF GOVERNORS MEETING
• The nine-month financial update: https://news.stclair-src.org/need-know-news/college-track-another-sizeable-surplus
• Cancelled and suspended programs: https://news.stclair-src.org/need-know-news/st-clair-packs-away-its-golf-clubs
• The college’s involvement with the community: https://news.stclair-src.org/need-know-news/we-emphasize-community-community-college
• The past year of beautifying campuses: https://news.stclair-src.org/need-know-news/knowledge-skills-beauty-weve-got-it-all
• Research and Development expands at St. Clair: https://news.stclair-src.org/need-know-news/rd-expanding-significantly-st-clair
• College expands online offerings: https://news.stclair-src.org/need-know-news/online-course-development-exceeds-goal