Local News

May 7, 2014

Labor commissioner says companies looking for ‘soft skills’

— At the height of the recession, when Georgia’s jobless rate topped 10 percent, employers complained they couldn’t fill many jobs because they couldn’t find people with the skills they needed. And Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler says that’s still true today, with unemployment standing at 8.3 percent.

But the sort of skills employers can’t find aren’t exactly highly technical ones.

“I do hear about the lack of those types of skills, but I also hear a lot about the lack of soft skills,” said Butler. “And by soft skills, I’m talking about things such as working well with others, communications skills, the ability to work without close supervision, even things such as showing up on time or dressing appropriately for the workplace.”

Butler spoke Wednesday at the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce’s “Wake Up Whitfield” breakfast at the Dalton Golf and Country Club.

Butler said his office has been working to make sure that Georgia high school students acquire those skills and understand their importance before they graduate and enter the workforce.

“We have a program called Georgia Best that is in over 200 high schools across the state that teaches those skills and how to demonstrate when they talk to prospective employers that they have those soft skills,” he said. “We are expanding that program, and we are creating a sister program based on the success we’ve had with Georgia Best that will go into businesses and help them teach their current employees those soft skills.”

Butler said having the right skills is just the first part of getting a job. Just as important, he said, is making employers aware of the skills you have. That’s something people who have never been in the job market or who have not looked for a job in many years may have trouble with.

The Labor Department has also created Special Workforce Assistance Teams (SWAT), made up of department employees skilled at helping job seekers improve their chances of landing a job by working with them to write better resumes and cover letters or to improve their interview skills.

“We take them around the state to big events, and we also do some smaller events,” he said. “The SWAT teams try to help people looking for a job overcome any initial obstacles. Some people have a difficult time trying to explain what skills they have and why they could be valuable to an employer. Working with SWAT team members helps them learn how to explain those things.”

The department brought a team to Dalton in October 2012 to help job seekers prepare for a jobs expo in December that year.

“That really did help those who showed up for the workshops. They came to the expo better prepared than they would have, and we did see many of them get hired,” said chamber President Brian Anderson.

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