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What employers want from workers

The Camp Verde Journal of Camp Verde, Arizona

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Career and technical education programs are required to teach people the skills needed to do a job, but that's only part of it.

"There's also what we call the 'soft skills,'" said Maggie Mangini, director of workforce education and development at Arizona State University. "Those aren't really defined, and those are the things that can get you hired and fired."

From something as simple as just showing up to work to showing up to work with a sense of unwarranted entitlement, educators want a way to prepare those they train for the realities of joining the workforce aside from just giving them a set of technical skills.

"The only way we are going to learn, the only way we could do that was to go out there into the communities and talk with business leaders," Mangini said.

That why business and industry people from across the Verde Valley gathered at the Cliff Castle Lodge in Camp Verde on Thursday, Feb. 24, to talk with each other about what they look for in a good employee. And while they talked, the organizers listened.

"We really wanted to get everybody into a round table situation," Mangini said.

The conference in Camp Verde was the fifth of 11 planned events across the state, and Mangini said that so far, it was the most well-attended.

The conferences have been organized by Mangini's office in cooperation with the Arizona Department of Education Career and Technical Education Division.

The discussion wasn't about finding one particular set of expected "soft skills" that all employees should be expected to have, although it was universally agreed that employees should understand the importance of actually being on time for work and displaying other good work habits. It wasn't about dismissing a younger generation, either, as many in attendance pointed out that younger people may have skills older people don't, skills that can really add to a business.

Dress codes? Well that can be subjective as well.

"A nose ring might be fine for Gamestop or some place like that that caters to young people," said Mike Olsen, a local business owner. "But you better not have it at Olsen's Grain."

Aside from professionalism, the businessmen and women in attendance touch on other aspects of what they look for in an employee, including the ability to communicate effectively with a wide range of people, and sense of professional ethics, critical thinking, problem-solving abilities and the ability to work with others.

The event was moderated by David Bolger, the chief operating officer of a Phoenix-based firm that works to bridge any gaps between the education and business worlds.

Bolger helped to facilitate discussion, but much of the conversation was driven by the participants themselves.

Organizers of the Camp Verde event also worked with the Mountain Institute, the Valley Academy for Career and Technology Education and the Coconino Association for Vocations, Industry and Technology.

The information gathered from the discussion will be used to develop workplace standards that will try to best fit the needs of modern Arizona employers.

"Business leaders have said for many years that they are looking for people skills and a good work ethic when they hire, especially for entry-level positions," said Marv Lamer, VACTE superintendent. "We as educators want to find a way to measure a student's grasp of these important concepts so we are more likely to ensure a successful future for the graduate."

Copyright 2011 The Camp Verde Journal, Camp Verde, Arizona. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: March 2, 2011

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