Connecticut’s workforce development focus

Connecticut’s Department of Education has a plan for making sure students are ready for their futures in the workforce. In addition to investments such as Perkins V, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and state dollars, they are also using federal pandemic relief to expand dual credit options. They have a number of opportunities for learning as well, including key partnerships and curriculum resources for districts to use in middle and high school.

As the vision for workforce development grows, schools will need to refine pathway programs and consider how they are integrating work-based experiences. To round out the workforce readiness approach, schools in Connecticut can benefit from addressing soft skills gaps that can prevent students from successfully securing and retaining employment with their academic and technical credentials alone.

What are soft skills? They are the non-academic skills, such as communication, perspective-taking, time, task and detail management, stress regulation, abstract thinking and problem solving. 97% of employers say soft skills are essential, and 51% of them do not believe education is helping close the soft skills gap. Students often learn soft skills in the home, so the skills gap is definitely an equity issue and soft skills predict future financial success more reliably than social class origin or IQ.

Further, teaching and assessing soft skills improves academic outcomes. Student soft skills training can increase graduation rates by 30%, improve math testing scores by 7.5% for boys and 10% for girls, and increase assignment completion and performance by 9.3%. It is a no brainer for Tier 1 programming and can help schools achieve their vision for helping students prepare for life after high school, no matter where it takes them. In fact, soft skills are the highest ranked predictor of academic achievement and educational attainment.

JAKAPA measures, trains and tracks 32 soft skills in five areas: emotional resilience, innovation, social engagement, cooperation and self-management. Our gamified system can be a stand-alone credit-bearing elective that looks attractive on transcripts or can be integrated into CTE courses or other career readiness programming. Using JAKAPA for 10-15 minutes each day builds self-awareness and provides the opportunity for students to practice the skills and the habits that lead to goal regulation, positivity, better communication, and stress regulation.

95% of students who score in the top 20% for soft skills graduate high school, while 58% of students who score in the bottom 20% graduate. As states continue to prioritize the importance of workforce development and career pathways, high schools can stand out, improve their other metrics and ensure Connecticut’s students are graduating ready for their futures.

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