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A hard push on soft skills
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Melvin Everson, director of the Governors Office of Workforce Development, talks with members of Effingham CountysWork Ready task force Monday afternoon at Savannah Technical Colleges Effingham campus. Everson was at STC and the Effingham Career Academy to hold a town hall meeting on soft skills. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

Prospective employers want jobseekers to show more than their acumen for a particular profession — and the state is trying to show employers that workers know skills that are a part of any job.

Melvin Everson, director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development, held a “soft skills” town hall meeting Monday at the Effingham Career Academy, stressing the importance of such qualities as punctuality, dependability and appearance.

“Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve gotten overwhelming support,” Everson said of the soft skills push. “They say, ‘It’s about time,’ in every sector across the state, from chambers of commerce to the labor department to industry to teachers to superintendents of school. It’s very much needed, and they are very happy the state of Georgia is taking this initiative to beef up its workforce with these soft skills.”

Monday’s town hall meeting was one of 31 being conducted across the state. Everson said he wants to use these meetings as a feedback session.

“I want to hear what the stakeholders have to say,” he said. “I’m taking copious notes.”The soft skills initiative began a couple of years ago, when businesses and lawmakers brought forth concerns that Georgia’s labor pool didn’t possess qualities such as punctuality, attendance and work ethic.

“It was affecting the economic picture of the state of Georgia,” Everson said.

This May, Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law House Bill 186, which charges the Office of Workforce Development with establishing certification in those soft skills. The soft skills certification will complement the Georgia Work Ready assessment.

With information gathered from the town hall meetings, Everson and his staff will put together a curriculum to infuse soft skills training into the workforce.

“The town hall meetings are an attempt to get key stakeholders in the communities to state what they would like to see in the curriculum,” Everson said.

Everson also said the Work Ready status — Effingham gained its earlier this year — is a boon to employers and jobseekers.

“It’s a great economic selling point for a community to be Work Ready certified,” he said. “It’s a great economic selling point for the state of Georgia to be Work Ready certified. It tells a prospective business or industry that Georgia has the necessary labor force for the employer to put to work. They are trained, qualified and educated for the jobs that are available and the jobs that will be available in the 21st century.”

The state isn’t just competing against its neighbors in the Southeast for jobs, Everson pointed out, but it’s now in a struggle with nations around the world for those jobs. Being Work Ready gives the state an edge, he said.

“It signifies to the rest of the world that Georgia is serious about her workforce,” he said, “that she is going to do whatever it takes to make sure her workforce is competitive. We’re living in a very competitive world. The Work Ready certification and the soft skills assessment and other tools in the tool box will make our workforce competitive as we compete with economies around the world. We want Georgia to land those opportunities so we can put Georgians back to work.