Workforce skills for Michigan residents in the 21st century: Part 2

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

A recent program developed via a partnership between Educators with the Children & Youth Institute and the Greening Michigan Institute at Michigan State University Extension teaches participants interpersonal skills via group work and problem solving scenarios.

Educators, realizing the importance of interpersonal skills for Michigan’s 21st century workforce, have identified a number of resources and strategies for reaching audience members and have incorporated them into a program titled, “21st Century Workforce Skills”. The importance of acquiring these skills has been identified by organizations and companies around the globe. For example, The Institute for the Future (IFTF), a non-profit research organization, works to “provide practical foresight for a world undergoing change”. They have identified a number of skills in their Future Work Skills 2020 report of which several can be classified as interpersonal skills. IFTF identifies social intelligence, novel and adaptive thinking, cross-cultural competency as key skills needed in the future workforce. These skills are synonymous with interpersonal skills, as they emphasize effective communication, adaptability, and teamwork.

21st Century Workforce Skills program takes these areas identified and matches them with ways to employ them in a group setting. Participants are asked to identify, as a team, strategies for solving hypothetical, but likely, situations they may encounter as members of a team in a diverse work environment. Through identifying the problem(s) and developing solutions participants are encouraged to recognize their individual and group behaviors through self-awareness, reflection, listening, observation and communication.

In addition to recognizing behaviors and solving problems, participants are able to observe other teams and how they function together towards a collaborative goal. While reaching a group consensus is not always achievable in a short period, engaging in the process can be equally educating and moving for participants. Depending on the number of teams present, participants will more than likely learn multiple strategies to solve workforce or personal situations, thus building the first steps to acquiring interpersonal skills.

While there is not one simple answer to effectively solving real-world situations in or out of the workforce, there are foundations worth engaging in to take the first-steps. Acquiring 21st century workforce skills can help participants take those steps.

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 Extensionwebsite for further information. 

Other articles in this series: