Work ethic, soft skills discussed at third annual NWA Workforce Summit

by Jennifer Joyner (JJoyner@nwabj.com) 326 views 

Work ethic, soft skills and the effect of big data on the workforce were topics of discussion at this year’s Northwest Arkansas Workforce Summit on Wednesday [Nov. 15] at the Northwest Arkansas Convention Center in Springdale.

The event brought together business leaders, legislators and educators from each school in the NWA region for a day-long conference designed to raise awareness of workforce training and to provide useful content in efforts to improve this crisis facing our region.

Close to 380 people attended the event, presented for the third year by the Springdale Chamber of Commerce. Attendance was up from previous years, which averaged about 300, said Bill Rogers, vice president for communications and special projects for the chamber.

Josh Davies, CEO for the Center for Work Ethic Development in Denver, gave the keynote speech.

His organization handles both pre-employment and post-employment work readiness across the U.S. and in countries all over the world, working with populations that include high school and college students and those with barriers to employment, including homeless women, military veterans and felons.

“Employers around the country are all saying the same thing: the biggest challenge [in workforce] is not a lack of technical skills, it’s a lack of soft skills, work ethic,” Davies said. “A common theme I hear from employers is, ‘We will train people to do what we want them to do, just get me people who show up every day, do what I ask them to do, pass a drug test, and I will hire everyone you send me.’”

No-call, no shows for events like scheduled job interviews are common, for example, among the employers with whom Davies works, he said.

“It’s not a generational issue. It’s not just millennials. You see this with 16 year olds and you see it with 60 year olds. It’s a societal issue,” he said. “Work is seen as a stigma or a problem, rather than something to be celebrated.”

Davies said employers should set clear standards for their employees. The Work Ethic Development center teaches the seven A’s: attendance, appearance, attitude, ambition, appreciation, accountability and acceptance.

Those standards are “seen common sense, but they are not common practice,” he said.

Also at the summit, Jarrod Ramsey, head of the Northwest Arkansas Technology Council spoke on the future of tech in the workforce.

Today’s workforce and the future workforce “will have to learn to story-tell,” said Ramsey, also vice president of mobile technology at Rockfish Digital in Rogers.

The age of big data is here, and there will only be more to come, he said. The area of opportunity is in “how to make it meaningful.” With a vast amount of information out there and an ever-changing tech environment, the key is to make sense of the data and package it into a palatable narrative that will be useful for businesses.

Ramsey’s speech was followed by a legislative workforce panel discussion, moderated by Talk Business & Politics CEO Roby Brock.

The panel included task force members Arkansas Sens. Jane English, Lance Eads and David Sanders, Rep. Dan Douglas and Mike Rogers.

“Bridging the Soft Skills Gap” with Takisha and Sidney Moncrief followed.

The two lead the Texas-based student training organization Moncrief One Team, which teaches career and workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and leadership.

Sidney Moncrief is a former Razorback All-American, a five-time NBA All-Star, five-time member of the NBA All-Defensive team, a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and an NBA All-Pro.

Takisha Moncrief is a former teacher, literacy coach, school improvement supervisor and professional development specialist. Takisha has nearly 20 years’ experience in K-12 education serving students in Wisconsin and Texas. She specializes in curriculum development, design and delivery and is the creator of Develop Me from A to Z and co-author of Your Passport to Becoming a Valuable Team Player, according to the chamber.

In early 2018, the Moncriefs will launch the Institute for College and Career Readiness, which is dedicated to teaching soft skills, including “communication, personal habits, emotional empathy, humility, teamwork and leadership,” according to the chamber.

To conclude the summit, Timothy Klinedinst and Stephanie Whitesell of Tyson Foods spoke on “The Career Fast Track.”

Klinedinst is senior technical recruiter for operations, and Whitesell is a recruitment specialist.

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