Workforce skills for Michigan residents in the 21st century: Part 1

Educators partner together to develop and deliver programs targeted at building interpersonal skills, a workforce skill highly sought out in the 21st century.

Today’s job descriptions reflect different demand from applicants than they did twenty years ago. Most positions request applicants have a high school diploma (at the bare minimum) and computer skills; however, a large percentage of employers will favor applicants with bachelor’s degrees over those without. While having a Master’s degree is not the norm for most positions, having it can certainly help. (However, in my personal experience, having one has also disqualified me on account of being ‘overqualified’.)

Whether or not an applicant has a higher education degree or not, one qualification employers do favor and seek out is having interpersonal skills. Today’s workforce interacts with a number of different people, cultures and demographics across communities, cities, counties and countries on a regular basis. And this does not necessarily mean people of different race, but also communities of different heritage, financial or educational backgrounds as well. Possessing interpersonal skills can ensure employers that applicants are capable of working across the various demographics their employees may come into contact with, both in their professional and personal life. For example, professionals in the education field work across multiple cultures when educating and managing children (and adults) of diverse background such as those mentioned earlier. Another example is professionals in the business field whom may (or may not) travel frequently overseas for work or use technology to facilitate meetings comprised of team members from different parts of the state, country or countries.

Interpersonal skills are often characterized as having the ability to reflect on and draw from experience, engaging in active listening, using (non) verbal communication effectively, building relationships by identifying commonalities and differences, managing conflict tactfully and having self-awareness in a variety of professional environments. Negotiation, assertiveness and decision-making also play an essential role in interpersonal skills. Possessing interpersonal skills such as those identified allow employees to interact within groups and relationships that may encounter the day-to-day challenges of working collaboratively.

Michigan State University Extension educators will be delivering “21st Century Workforce Skills,” a program designed to teach interpersonal skills to participants via a number of teamwork methods. The first program of its kind will be delivered April 2, 2014 from 6 - 8 p.m. in the St. Clair County building in the Donald D. Auditorium for 4H and non-4H members. Future programs will be planned and opened to more youth and adult audiences throughout the region. Please visit the Michigan State University Extension website for further information. 

Other articles in this series: