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Do you have soft skills?

Hank Hayes • Jan 21, 2019 at 8:30 AM

KINGSPORT – “You don’t want a bricklayer. You want a cathedral builder. You get so focused on your job description. You lose sight of the cathedral.”

Those words came from Organizational Development Specialist Greg Coker who was speaking at a “Soft Skills Boot Camp” session held at the Kingsport Chamber.

One of Coker’s role models is Christopher Wren, who was commissioned to build the St. Paul’s Cathedral after the fire of 1666 leveled London.

He uses the idea of cathedral building to get people to think beyond their job descriptions and for instance, work on the way they greet people and build personal relationships.

“My biggest clients right now are school systems and prisons,” Coker told about 20 professionals during the session. “It’s not your mom’s or dad’s prison anymore. You know what these inmates look like? You, you and me and my kids. The recidivism rate is about 85 percent. If they cannot get a job in the first 60 days, they are going back. What happens to the oxygen when you walk in the room?”

The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry offered the session because employers, recruiters and educators report workers in all professions, and at all levels, lack needed soft skills.

“Soft Skills include, but are not limited to, problem solving, conflict resolution, communication, customer service and teamwork,” the Tennessee Chamber noted. “While not an entirely new term, soft skills commonly refer to personal attributes that enable one to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.”

Tennessee Chamber President and CEO Bradley Jackson said enhancing soft skills is a part of workforce development.

“We ask employers what are your major concerns and they say ‘workforce,’” Jackson pointed out. “That’s simple things you and I take for granted, like showing up on time and knowing how to converse in a workplace setting. (Baby) Boomers represented 60 percent of the workforce and 10,000 are retiring every day up until 2025. Millennials now make up the bulk of the workforce.”

The ability to pass a drug test is a soft skill, Jackson stressed.

“The business community is in a tough place on that,” Jackson explained. “Tennessee has in place a drug-free workplace act. In other to be compliant with that, you have to drug test pre-employment and post-injury.”

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