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Sunday, February 17 , 2019, 7:03 am | Fair 49º


Business Leaders Brainstorm Strategies for Ensuring Well-Educated Work Force

SBCC breakfast focuses on the abilities and qualities job seekers need but often lack, including basic math and computer skills

It often comes down to basic social skills.

That was the purveying theme when Santa Barbara business leaders were asked last Friday during an SBCC breakfast event, titled “Business Community Invited to SBCC to Discuss Current and Future Needs in the Workplace,” which skills and qualities applicants are often lacking.

Melissa Moreno, director of the SBCC Scheinfeld Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, said some job seekers don’t practice enough soft skills such as résumé writing, conflict resolution, dressing professionally and interviewing.

“We went so far as to consider if those skills should be a requirement for not only the career and technical education courses but also for transfer students because we know they won’t get it at a four-year university,” she said.

Local business professionals discussed how school curricula could improve to better prepare graduates. SBCC faculty and staff sat at each table, asked a series of questions and summarized the participants’ insight.

“Social media has broken down social barriers that they don’t think exist,” said Britt Andreatte, chair of the bachelor’s degree program at Antioch University. “Students need to understand how to engage someone in a conversation.”

While SBCC offers career and technical education courses, they aren’t necessarily required, said Dr. Jack Friedlander, SBCC acting superintendent/president. He emphasized the need to restructure general education classes and expand SBCC’s focused certificate program to better incorporate practical concepts. In the 2010-11 academic year, 538 UCSB undergraduates transferred to SBCC to gain certification on a specific skill, according to Friedlander.

“We are looking at the whole general education curriculum and how we can infuse these work preparation skills into GE classes,” he said. “In many GE courses, students are learning about the subject matter but not learning how it can be applied to employment opportunities.”

Aside from soft skills, some job seekers lack basic math and computer skills, according to Arlan Schipper, vice president of Frank Schipper Construction Co.

“As our industry evolves, not only are the math skills lacking but the computer skills are as well,” he said. “You need to know Excel, how to be able to type coherent questions to the architects in Word, and know who you are sending an email to.”

Some expressed that college graduates act as though they are entitled to a high-paying job. Moreno said graduates need to realize the importance of an entry-level position and building relationships with fellow employees.

“What I heard was that they were not so concerned with the technical training that an employee receives,” said Steve Cushman, president of the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce. “They were concerned with their basic ability to communicate, have a positive attitude and an understanding of appropriate behavior in the workplace.”

Friedlander said many students are disinterested because they can’t see the connection between their GE classes and their desired field, and faculty members need to help students focus their career path at an earlier age.

“Employers can help us by giving guest lectures in our classes and asking students to go to their workplace,” he said. “That will be a major motivator to see the connection between what they are studying and how it can be applied to the workplace.”

SBCC will host another business breakfast this Friday.

“We want to make sure we’re teaching the right skills so we have a well-educated pool of people that businesses can hire,” Friedlander said.

Noozhawk business writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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