In Part 2 of Career-Education Linkages, I discussed the need for high schools and colleges to teach performance skills in addition to academic core subjects. Across all the growth sectors in our regional economy, the jobs will require more than technical or academic knowledge. This jobs will require performance skills such as communication and critical thinking and, finally soft skills such as customer service and work ethic.
An Intel executive asks one of his managers how his new intern is working out. Well, the guy says, he seems to have all the technical skills we need but he can’t seem to get to the next step without direction. He is always asking me what to do next. He is a guy I can’t rely on to identify a problem, talk to his peers and then come to me with solutions. This is what I need. So what this new employee is lacking is performance skills. This is the ability to identify the problem, collect data, synthesize as well as analyze, think critically and find solutions. Intel bases it hiring decision on performance skills (60%) and technical skills (40%). This rating system assumes technical skills can be taught while performance skills are difficult to acquire once you are in the workplace. The presumption here is that students need to be taught these skills during their education journey and arrive at the job ready to practice them.
Listen to some of the questions that are asked of college graduate applying for jobs at Intel – could you answer these?
Careful listening and effective communication
Can you think of an instance where your skill in listening helped you communicate better?
Think of a development goal you set and how did you make and monitor your progress
Project Management, Leadership
Tell of a time when you inspired an individual or group to excel on a project
Tell of an instance that you changed an opinion after receiving new information
Describe something you developed that had to be right and how did you test it
Describe an instance when you used survey data, library research, or statistics to define a problem
Tell me a time when you thought you knew the solution but chose to solicit other opinions
These themes were reinforced by the Superintendent from the Pentucket School District. This district recently revamped their entire curriculum away from MCAS test prep to one that is experiential and reflective where students took ownership, were pushed outside their comfort zone and were provided multi-faceted support from staff and faculty. It was a curriculum that emphasized communication, collaboration, thinking and creative exploration. It was project-based with extensive rubrics to make sure students were covering all academic core areas. What happened their MCAS scores in the absence of “teaching to the test”. They, indeed, went up as did the student’s engagement in learning.
This type of learning cannot start in the workplace or even in college. It must start in our K-12 schools. I know we ask our schools to do a lot above and beyond common core curricula but changes in our economy , in part caused by globalization, mandate that these changes be made. Schools can effectively partner with community organizations and businesses to provide these additional performance skills in combination with a learning model that develops critical thinking and problem solving.
This concludes the 3-part series. The main points that you should take away:
- 50% of our students are disengaged from learning because they find it boring and not relevant to their lives
- For those 50%, we must offer different learning models that ties learning to today’s jobs. This could be expanded quality vocational schools or extracurricular programs or internships in partnership with the business community to provide those linkages
- Learning should encompass project-based learning that emphasizes critical thinking and problem solving
- Finally, schools must partner with the broader community to create these linkages.
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