Letters to the Rockford Region – March 2016

Letters to the Rockford Region is a monthly publication discussing issues that are important to the area and the residents living in the Rockford Region. They are originally posted in the Rockford Register Star. 

Mike 8748re 4x6Dear Rockford Region,

Quite a bit has been written lately about the “skills gap”.

This term refers to the technical skills required, for example, to perform the jobs available in today’s Advanced Manufacturing environment.

However, there is another gap which our community must address as well. That gap is “soft skills”. This term refers to the mind-set necessary to succeed in a career and in life. The mind set to arrive everyday on-time, ready for work, be a team player, speak well, hold eye-contact, etc. The RAEDC recently visited a local employer who was featured on a local TV station’s news program highlighting current job openings at their facility. Subsequently, 600 people applied for positions at this facility and half of those who applied for employment failed to pass the employer’s Assessment Test.

I initially suspected those who had failed to pass the Assessment Test were unable to pass mathematics and reading assessments. I was informed the employer’s requirements focused on the ability to be a team player and demonstrate that they can follow directions, as these competency-needs align with the core business’ needs.

The RAEDC’s new strategic plan, Rockforward20/20 provides a plan of action for specific initiatives in workforce development. We work with many regional education and business partners to develop strategies that educate our future workforce for both technical and soft skills. Collaborative and comprehensive workforce development initiatives ensure people have the knowledge and competencies needed for our existing employers and potential companies who are looking to expand or relocate to the Rockford Region.

Today, this employer still has 50 – 75 job openings which offer an opportunity to begin a productive and rewarding journey through life.

Until next month,

Michael Nicholas, President
Rockford Area Economic Development Council

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