In today’s global economy, the need for education that focuses on both the academic success (“hard skills”) and the social and emotional development (“soft skills”) of students is essential to their personal and professional growth. Yet, soft skills – like effective communications, problem solving and teamwork – are rarely emphasized at secondary and postsecondary schools. Not surprisingly, many employers are challenged to find graduating seniors ready to assume even entry-level jobs.
Junior Achievement (JA) of West Kentucky has a rich history of preparing students to become tomorrow’s leaders. More than 264,000 students – many of whom are identified as “at risk” due to family financial situations – have benefitted from JA’s work readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship curriculum.
Based on feedback from regional employers, JA partnered in 2012 with Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation and the Regional Alliance for Education to create the Soft Skills Certification Initiative, a workforce development program aimed at preparing young Americans for success in the workplace. To earn certification, high school seniors must complete all seven sessions of the Junior Achievement Career Success® program, which uses trained business volunteers to deliver academically enriching soft-skills training aimed at improving career readiness.
Students also are required to maintain a minimum 2.5 grade point average and a strong record of school attendance and participate in at least two cocurricular activities, including part-time employment and community volunteer projects. Students who receive their Soft Skills Certification are guaranteed an interview for any open position at the more than 200 companies that recognize the program.
“Through our partnership with area high schools and local businesses across a four-county area, we’re bringing corporate standards to the classroom,” said Dan Douglas, President of Junior Achievement of West Kentucky. “Since 2012, 4,971 high school seniors have participated in the program. Their success and ours has become a model for other counties in the region to demonstrate their commitment to the education, workforce and economic development goals that are necessary to build and sustain vibrant, thriving communities.”