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Area Employers: Soft Skills, Tech Skills Important For Job Seekers

By Jenny Callison, posted Jul 29, 2015
Members of Cape Fear Community College’s continuing education department heard from area employers Wednesday about what they look for when hiring.

The department invited representatives of major local companies and the New Hanover Workforce Center to the first in a planned series of roundtable discussions designed to provide feedback it can use in refining its basic workforce training programs. The group of about 15 split into smaller groups for question-and-answer sessions with CFCC continuing education staffers.

While company representatives said they prize candidates who have technology skills, they clearly also value a strong customer service focus, good work ethic and can-do attitude in prospective hires. In the hospitality industry, for instance, customer service abilities are a pre-requisite for almost any job, some participants said.

“Every group I spoke with addressed the importance of having a positive attitude in whatever job you do; the common theme was that positive people who enjoy what they do are more successful in the work place, and if you are a team player who is willing to go the extra mile and volunteer to do the job that nobody else wants to do, you will make yourself indispensable to your employer,” Stefanie Adams, CFCC’s career readiness coordinator, said following the roundtable.  

That’s not to downplay the importance of a basic familiarity with computers and other technology devices, however. Participants pointed out that it’s not just administrative employees who need to be comfortable with technology: warehouse jobs, for instance, often require workers to track inventory and shipments on a computer, and the health care industry is increasingly tech-dependent.

Basic computer skills are essential even at the application stage, participants noted. With most companies taking applications online rather than in person these days, it’s important for job candidates to make the best possible impression electronically. Roundtable participants said this can be difficult for applicants who do not have computer skills.

“What we keep hearing is that it’s a challenge for a lot of people who are not tech-savvy enough to complete an online application,” Adams said to participants. Company representatives agreed that this is a problem, especially for applicants for entry-level positions or those who have been out of the workforce for some time.

Other workforce development skills job-seekers need, according to roundtable participants, include preparation for interviewing, help with putting together an effective resume and knowledge of workplace etiquette such as proper attire, good interpersonal skills and attendance expectations.

Adams said she was pleased with the information she and others at CFCC gleaned from the roundtable.

“It’s one thing for us, the college community, to educate people about what we think local employers are looking for, but after having spoken with the employers that attended this morning, we can say with confidence that we know what these companies want and we can more fully prepare individuals for the recruitment and hiring process.”

Companies represented at the event were CastleBranch Corp., OrthoWilmington, PPD, Wilmington Health, New Hanover Regional Medical Center, Hilton Wilmington Riverside, Verizon, YS Companies, Greene Resources and United Way of the Cape Fear Area. Participants also included representatives of the Wilmington office of the N.C. Division of Workforce Services. 

The Department of Continuing Education will present seven basic workforce development classes this fall: Employability Lab, Computers and the Job Search, Back to Work Bootcamp, Got the Job? Keep the Job!, Social Media for Employment, Building Financial Freedom and Interview EXPERT. The classes are free of charge to people who are unemployed, underemployed or have been notified of an impending layoff.
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