Young people entering the work force are lacking both the technical and soft skills they need to succeed in the workplace, according to a study released Thursday by the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County.
The $130,000 study, funded by J.P. Morgan Chase, reflects the 1.96 million labor force that stretches from St. Lucie to Broward counties. The analysis — from a survey of more than 200 businesses; 1,800 residents; 1,200 post-secondary students and 2,900 high school students — calls for Palm Beach County to improve training and expand learning opportunities for high school students.
“Palm Beach County’s economy is extremely robust. However, local CEOs are citing the lack of key skills and talent attraction as one of the biggest issues impacting their ability to grow their bottom line,” said Kelly Smallridge, president and CEO of the Business Development Board, the county’s economic development partnership.
Kay Stebbins, director of research and analytics for Georgia-based Boyette Strategic Advisors, which conducted the study, said 56 percent of employers surveyed said it is difficult to find talent, especially those with technical skills.
During a study panel discussion Thursday, which had about 200 business leaders in attendance at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, Palm Beach Schools Superintendent Donald Fennoy said he was surprised that the students surveyed acknowledged their lack of soft skills, such as social and communication skills. But he learned during a recent visit to Suncoast Community High School in Riviera Beach, he said, that students “are actually blaming us for why they don’t have soft skills. They say, ‘I’ve never gone outside by myself and played,’ and ‘I don’t get graded on how to interact with other people.’ ”
Kimberly Lea, president of Keiser College’s West Palm Beach campus, said educational institutions need to work with employers to provide learning opportunities.
“It’s making sure [medical program] students have those soft skills by working in a local hospital and knowing what it’s like to be in a stressful situation,” she said.
Recommendations from the survey, which will be addressed by the Business Development Board’s Academic Leaders Council, include:
Soft skills development from elementary to high school.
Agreements between educational institutions to explore concurrent credit opportunities.
New opportunities for businesses to collaborate with education and training providers.