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Why ‘soft skills’ are essential for new graduates

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(NewsNation) — For decades, America has focused on relevant education and trade in the workforce; however, employers are now shifting their focus from GPA to interpersonal skills — what’s known as “noncognitive” or so-called “soft” skills.

As more companies search for new workers, they’re seeking college students’ whose resumes highlight attributes like problem-solving skills, communication skills and critical thinking skills, according to a National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) survey.

In the rolling hills of Western Pennsylvania, manufacturing is a lifeline. For many, it’s a legacy that started in their families decades ago. 

In Brookville, Eric Miller is one of the keepers of his family legacy. Miller Fabrication Solutions has been a family-owned and -operated company for nearly 60 years employing close to 400 people. The company is considered one of the top metal fabricators in the country. 

Across the company’s three plant locations, hardworking men and women work side by side showcasing an impressive display of manpower on one side, and on the other side: the ingenuity of automation. But there’s a problem: The company is still having a hard time finding workers.

Miller said the company’s remote location makes it hard to attract potential workers; however, it’s not just at his family’s plant, America has a big manufacturing worker shortage

Deloitte, an industry analyst, predicts a shortage of more than two million American manufacturing workers by 2030.

The manufacturing industry is fighting a perception problem, a widely, yet wrongly, held belief that manufacturing jobs are better suited for unskilled blue-collar workers. 

“The reality is manufacturing jobs pay more than any other sector of the economy. The average wage for a manufacturing job is $92,000,” said Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.

This a message the team at Miller Fabrication Solutions is now taking to high schools, trade schools, tech schools and college campuses. 

During the summer, the company employs high school students, giving them a real-life experience of what it’s like to work in a factory. 

“We want to take people who may not have the skills and we’ll train them,” Miller said. “We’re willing to train and teach.”

Nearly 86% of employers are seeking evidence of problem-solving skills on the resumes of the students they are recruiting, according to the NACE survey. The survey also found that more than three-quarters are looking for proof of candidates’ analytical/quantitative and teamwork skills.

“We have several opportunities for people who choose not to go to college, and then they can make a good salary while they’re training to learn our skills,” said Jamie Hummell, a human resources manager.

Shawn VanDerziel, executive director of the NACE, said employers aren’t only looking for candidates with the best grades, they’re looking for people with great character. 

“They’re saying I might not be able to get the students that have the top GPA because everybody’s competing for that same person, but what I can do is to get a student who I know has the ability to adapt,” Vanderziel explained.

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