Legislation would support schools in helping students learn critical skills

As individuals who work in education and business, we have a front-row perspective of – and a bottom-line appreciation for – the need for both students and aspiring employees to have skills that include certain core elements.

Kalem Grasham is director of federal programs for Garrard County Schools.

Susan Elkington is president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, Inc.

These are not job- or subject-specific skills; they are critical for success in every field of work or study. But unfortunately, they are all too often lacking among students in the classroom and employees in the workforce.

These skills are sometimes described with different words – soft, personal management, work ethic and others. But whatever they’re called, these skills are essential and very basic:

— Showing up on time

— Working well with others

— Communicating clearly and effectively

— Having the ability to solve problems

— Taking responsibility for actions

— Managing time effectively

— Remaining drug free.

These and similar characteristics would seemingly be developed in the home environment, but that is not today’s reality in many cases. That means we must find another avenue to ensure students develop these skills before they leave high school and enter the world of work or continue their education.

Legislation now moving through the 2018 Kentucky General Assembly would provide such an avenue – taking an important step toward aligning the skills that students are being taught with those they need to succeed beyond graduation.

House Bill 3 would help our schools identify and prioritize these essential traits, and it would empower schools to address them consistently.

Such efforts are already underway in schools across the Commonwealth, where educators are intentional in using programs and instruction to help students develop essential skills. They deserve credit for that work – and House Bill 3 would provide an avenue for schools to learn about such best practices and empower teachers to put a greater focus on these attributes.

It might be easy to conclude that this focus on the importance of essential skills is a new thing. But an item in the Lane Report magazine provides an interesting note on the timeline from the National Soft Skills Association. According to that account, research conducted by Harvard University and other entities concluded that 85 percent of job success comes from having well-developed soft skills and people skills.

Here’s the interesting part: The conclusion was part of a report published in 1918 – 100 years ago! Clearly, there is a longstanding appreciation of the need for essential skills – and that continues today.

Fast forward several decades, and the Kentucky Chamber noted in its 2015 workforce report that:

“Kentucky employers consistently express concerns – and frustrations – about the challenges they face in finding employees who understand the importance of showing up for work, communicating well with others, taking personal responsibility for their actions, managing their time effectively and similar traits.”

Through House Bill 3, Kentucky can make positive progress and strengthen our workforce by helping students develop the essential skills that are so critical to their success in life. We encourage the General Assembly to support its passage.

Susan Elkington is president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, Inc. Kalem Grasham is director of federal programs for Garrard County Schools.