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June 11, 2018
Piedmont Technical College Humanities Department Head Jennifer Lopes gave a presentation at the South Carolina State University Division of Academic Affairs Leadership Institute in Savannah, Georgia, on May 23. Her topic, titled “The 21st Century Student and the New Paradigm for Higher Education,” emphasized the importance of “soft skills” such as work ethic and professionalism, listening, promptness, attitude and dependability in the marketability and employability of young people.
“More than 75 percent of employers surveyed said that soft skills were as important as ― or more important than ― technical skills in securing entry-level employment,” she told those assembled, quoting from the work of author Jennifer Pritchard.
She went on to note that the missions of both PTC and SC State include language about offering quality curricula to prepare highly skilled workers for successful employment. Earlier this year, PTC and SC State signed a partnership agreement that will create more options for students who would like to begin their studies at Piedmont Tech and then complete a bachelor’s degree program at SC State.
“The 21st Century paradigm redefines the aim of education to place more focus on employment,” Lopes said. “That calls for a more holistic approach that embeds employability into the curriculum as a part of academic learning.” This will require institutions of higher education to incorporate non-traditional learning experiences that can help students transfer what they learn in the classroom to practical experiences in the real world.
At PTC, Lopes and a team of colleagues on the college’s Work Ethics Skills Committee developed an award-winning Work Ethic Skills (WES) program that combines role-playing, team projects, and guest speaker presentations to convey the importance and relevance of soft skills in the workplace.