What kind of skills do businesses want their student interns and apprentices -- and perhaps their future employees -- to have in today's 21st-century workforce?
Many youth have the technical and computer skills to be successful, but some lack the so-called soft skills -- like communicating effectively with others -- according to local business leaders who attended a roundtable discussion Wednesday in Arlington Heights.
"How to navigate in a professional world is really important," said Bob Pullion, the foundational talent training program manager at Schaumburg-based Zurich North America, which runs an apprenticeship program with Harper College. "Surprisingly, there's things we're having to train people on in their 20s."
Encouraging schools and other stakeholders to help students improve upon those personal skills was one suggestion offered during the forum at John Hersey High School hosted by Northwest Suburban High School District 214 and state Sen. Ann Gillespie.
Gillespie, an Arlington Heights Democrat, sponsored legislation approved by both chambers this spring to establish a grant program for high schools, community colleges, economic development groups and businesses to partner on job training. To qualify for state money, schools would have to show their curriculum includes training on effective communication skills, teamwork, problem-solving and work ethic, among other attributes, according to the legislation.
The bill, sponsored in the House by fellow Arlington Heights Democratic state Rep. Mark Walker, currently is on Gov. J.B. Pritzker's desk.
Dawn Fletcher Collins, executive director of the Mount Prospect Chamber of Commerce, suggested business chambers like hers could play an important role in helping students with social cues, time management and business attire. She said she's had only positive experiences working with student interns from District 214 schools the past nine years.
"They are young, but we were too," she said.