Employers Are Looking For These Four Soft Skills

One of NOVA’s Student Success Counselors, Michael Frasnelli, was quoted in a recent article on Virginia’s Community College’s website. Read an excerpt below:

“Ethical hacking, certified nurse aide, arc metal welder. These careers all have technical skills that are attainable through FastForward training. Employers will look at a person’s ability to measure blood pressure or weld cylindrical, tack-welded pieces – but they’re also looking for certain “soft skills” that aren’t necessarily written on your resume.

Soft skills are everyday skills that can be applied to any career. We talked to our FastForward Career Coaches, who connect FastForward trainees and employers across Virginia, and these are the top soft skills Virginia employers look for when making hiring decisions.

Communication

An overwhelming majority of our coaches said good communication skills are very important to prospective employers. Michael Frasnelli from Northern Virginia Community College says that good communication begins before your first day on the job. “The very process of setting up an interview and scheduling can be very telling,” he says. “Employers need to feel confident that the person they are hiring can communicate needs in a succinct and meaningful manner.'”

 

To read the full article, visit the FastForward blog here.

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Student Spotlight: Joshua Bowman

What is your occupation? What are some of your responsibilities?
I am an adjunct instructor at American Culture and Language Institute on the Alexandria campus
of the Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). I develop and implement lessons to
implement the assigned curriculum. But in a more informal sense, I am a coach, a cheerleader,
and a teammate to those who are trying to learn English.

Do you hold any certifications? How important do you think they are in
your field?
I earned a Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certificate from NOVA.
The certificate is pretty much essential to qualify for jobs in this field. But more than that, the
skills I learned are indispensable to doing my job well.

The TESOL course gave me the theoretical knowledge of the process of learning and teaching a
second language. Moreover, it gave me practical means of putting this theory to use, the
experience of seeing it practiced and in practicing it myself. Lastly, it gave me access to skilled,
experienced professionals who have studied TESOL and worked in the field themselves.

What advice do you have for those interested in entering your field?
I have two simple pieces of advice. Practice, and learn from your mistakes.
It is the same advice I have for my students. You must learn the theory. But you can never really
learn it unless you use it. For my students, this means learning grammar. But then they have to
use it in their speaking and writing. For other teachers, it means listen and learn in class. But
then you have to teach. If you must, volunteer at first. But teaching anything helps you learn it
better.

As for the second part, accept that you will make mistakes and don’t let that hold you back. If you
aren’t making mistakes, then you aren’t trying. But give those mistakes value and learn from
them. Don’t just accept advice and constructive criticism. Seek it out. Seek it out from your
colleagues but mostly from your students. They will give you the best feedback and respect you
for your efforts to improve.

Where do you see yourself in your career in five years? Ten?
I want to continue to improve myself and prepare myself for opportunities to further empower
others, but I am happy now, and I have learned that can be a rare thing to find. So, I am going to
savor what I have now.

 

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Student Wins HR Internship

College Central Network (CCN) is a resource offered to NOVA Workforce students to connect them with careers and internship opportunities. Below is a testimonial from Dean Cogdill, a business professor as NOVA, and a student, about their success with CCN:

 

Dean Cogdill:

“As students seek better jobs while in school, I discovered that bringing college resources into the classroom really pays off! My business students have enjoyed four semesters of presentations with Erika Coddington, from NOVA’s Career Services division of Business Engagement, the department that manages NOVA’s College Central Network. She showed them how to utilize the database, write a better resume and after those appearances, 14 of my students have found steadier employment while in school and enjoying those increased opportunities. Thank you CCN!”

 

Business Student:

“During spring break, Professor Cogdill announced that there is a new HR internship at MOJA (an information technology company) available on the College Central Network. I checked out the internship… Even though it was an HR internship, I wanted to at least do the interview. The internship would give me an idea of what the recruiters are looking for when they are hiring. I emailed my resume to the business manager and we scheduled an interview.

“Before the interview, Professor Cogdill and I scheduled a meeting to do a mock interview so that I’d be better prepared. Finally, I had the interview and it went well. Today (3/28/18) was my first day of the internship. The College Central Network really made it simple to contact and get information about the company. Also, what makes it so easy is that all the jobs posted there are looking for NOVA students only, which makes the chances of finding a job that much easier. 

“Thank you so much for coming to our class and informing us about the CCN, it will greatly assist the students at NOVA if used to its full potential.”

 

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Student Spotlight: Kelsey Myers

 

What is your occupation? What are some of your responsibilities?
I am an Adult Education Instructor at Lord Fairfax Community College. I teach an ESL class
offered through Lord Fairfax’s the Adult Education Program. I plan lessons, report attendance,
and conduct pre- and post-testing for assessment. I am also helping to design a curriculum for
ESL classes we’re able to offer now through a grant the program received, the Integrated English
Literacy and Civics Education (IELCE) grant.

What inspired you to choose this field?
I love languages and have always wanted to be a teacher. I started volunteering teaching ESL
through a local literacy organization, and I found my students to be the most motivated and
earnest learners. I wanted to help equip them with the language tools they need to succeed in
America.

How has/have your credential(s) helped you in your career?
The TESOL Certificate program taught me how to teach in a way that is student-centered and
most beneficial for the student. It gave me experience leading a class, lesson planning, and
setting objectives.

Please describe the academic pathway you took to get to your current position.
I completed a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and English at Lynchburg College, then later
started the TESOL Certificate program at NOVA. I observed ESL classes that Lord Fairfax
offered as part of the Certificate requirements, so when I completed my certificate I contacted
the Lord Fairfax contact I went through to set up observation hours to see if they were hiring. A
few months later, Lord Fairfax notified me that they were hiring. I applied and got the job!

Where do you see yourself in your career in five years? Ten?
I’d like to have a Master’s degree in TESOL, and be teaching full-time to ESL students taking
credit classes at a university.

 

 

 

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Checking the Facts: The LinkedIn Workforce Report

At NOVA, we frequently hear from educators, businesses, students, and parents about the challenges of providing career advice. The volume of information available about where the jobs are, the skills and education needed, and how to get there is simply overwhelming. So when big name entities release reports about workforce trends, people pay attention. Unfortunately, if the information provided to the public is inaccurate or incomplete, there could be a very serious, unintended consequence: students and job seekers are advised to stay away from occupations and skills that are in high demand.

Most recently, LinkedIn has started releasing a Workforce Report, reporting on employment trends for the U.S. workforce, as well as 20 of the largest metro areas in the United States. After examining the most recent February 2018 report for the Washington, D.C. metro, we have found several inconsistencies between the LinkedIn report and data provided through the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Burning Glass, and leading economists in the greater D.C. region.

LinkedIn highlights 10 skills that are in “abundance” for the Washington, D.C. region, which the company defines as a skill where the worker supply exceeds employer demand. Many skills on this list are in high-demand from D.C. employers according to online job posting data from Burning Glass. In particular, we are concerned that three of the skills highlighted in the report: PR and Communications, Software Engineering Management, and IT Infrastructure and Systems Management. These three skills are misrepresented as having an abundance in supply when employers are actually having a difficult time recruiting talent with these skills.

It is important to note that the LinkedIn data comes entirely from the company’s social media platform, which relies on data inputted by each user with a LinkedIn account. A few areas for concern when using LinkedIn data to draw broad conclusions on the workforce are:

  1. LinkedIn profiles do not represent the workforce in its entirety. There is inherent sampling bias in the LinkedIn data, as certain professionals are more likely than others to have an active LinkedIn profile.
  2. LinkedIn data used in the Workforce Report assumes that all data on user profiles is accurate and up to date. Any user can create or update their profile with false or inaccurate information about skills or education they’ve received, or forget to update their LinkedIn account to reflect changes in skills, education, or employment.
  3. Skills listed on an individual’s profile may not reflect their current employment profile. Skills represent an individual’s self-reported skill achievements over the course of their entire career, not just the skill requirements of their current position.

Below is a closer examination of the job market data for PR and Communications, Software Engineering Management, and IT Infrastructure and Systems Management from the “gold standard” source – the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The most recent data available is from Quarter 1 2017, with estimates provided through Quarter 3 2017. Data on job postings is provided by Chmura Economics, an industry leader in providing real time labor market information services.

  1. PR and Communications – There are approximately 21,081 public relations specialists in the greater D.C. area. This occupation has a regional unemployment rate of 2.2% and there are 1,794 active job postings for this occupation. 5,116 professionals are employed as public relations and fundraising managers, and this occupation has an unemployment rate of 1.1% with 575 active job postings.
  2. Software Engineering Management – There are 77,304 software developers and programmers in the greater D.C. area. This occupation has a regional unemployment rate of 2.5% and there are 9,615 active job postings.
  3. IT Infrastructure and Systems Management – There are 35,382 Computer and Information Analysts in the greater D.C. area. This occupation has a regional unemployment rate of 2.7% and there are 7,760 active job postings. There are 32,464 Database and Systems Administrators in the greater D.C. area. This occupation has a regional unemployment rate of 1.8% and there are 8,757 active job postings.

Given all of the data presented above, it appears that employers are in fact having a difficult time hiring for these three skills, with the job posting demand for these occupations greatly exceeding talent supply. LinkedIn has a wide reaching audience, with over 150 million profiles in the United States alone. If LinkedIn’s reporting continues to provide inaccurate or misrepresented data on the workforce as factual, it could cause unintended negative consequences to career advising and harm workforce development efforts to build our technology talent supply for the region.

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The Latest in Workforce Student Success

Early in February, approximately 190 students and instructors from NOVA’s American Culture and Language Institute (ACLI) gathered for their Welcome Potluck Luncheon and Academic Award Ceremony.

Students shared and enjoyed food representing a variety of cultures.

One student later wrote, “I was very excited from the first day that I knew there was a party called a Pot Luck. We would share foods from different countries. On that day, I tried almost every dish. They were all perfect.” 

Afterwards, Ms. Darlene Branges, an ACLI Coordinator, awarded Ms. Nueraila Abulizi with the ACLI Academic Award of Excellence. Each semester this award is given to a student who exhibits academic success, a strong work ethic, and leadership qualities within the classroom.

She was nominated by her instructor, Ms. Dianne Prosack, who wrote:

“Not only is she studying English full-time, she volunteers in a dental clinic.  Besides being a very dedicated hardworking student, she also is one of the kindest, most generous people I have had the pleasure of meeting.  She was friendly toward all of her classmates, assisted them when she could, and even listened to their problems. I don’t think there is a more deserving student.” 

The luncheon concluded with a competitive Valentine’s themed game of Kahoot.

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Career Services Classroom Engagement

Erika Coddington, Student Engagement Coordinator at NOVA Workforce, presented to 73 students in Dean Kathleen Cogdill’s Business classes. Erika showed students the features and benefits of the college’s career services database, the College Central Network. The features include podcasts on career development topics (such as resume and interview tips), as well as tools to improve personal branding.

Each semester, Dean Cogdill requires her students to submit their resumes through the College Central Network (CCN) resume portal for feedback and approval as a 100-point assignment for her class.

The students asked about what types of questions to expect in interviews. For example, one question might be: “Describe your experience in working with a difficult customer.” Students also asked about how to dress for success, what color business suits are most professional, and about the appropriate timing for salary negotiations.

The students asked questions about career advancement, which demonstrates the eagerness of NOVA students to learn more about how to be successful and increase their marketability for employment.

Students also expressed curiosity and interest in the job and internship opportunities in NOVA’s career services database.

We received the following feedback from Professor Cogdill regarding the presentation and incorporation of College Central Network (CCN) into her class curriculum:

“Our partnership of my classes with CCN has been terrific and six students last semester got jobs with the resumes you worked on with my students.”

We love supporting the career success of NOVA students! For more information about NOVA Workforce Career Services, email: novacareerservices@nvcc.edu.

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Training Immigrants in the Culture and Language of the Workplace – Part 3: Overcoming Challenges to Build Strategies for Success

This blog post was originally published here. 

In this final installment of our three-part blog series on the American Culture and Language Institute’s Part-Time ESL Career Readiness program, we focus on some of the challenges faced by international and immigrant students and how ACLI’s staff helps them overcome barriers and navigate a clear path to employment.

 Challenges Faced

The largest challenge facing international and immigrant students is the fact that ACLI is a self-funded program, funded through student tuition. These students cannot use Pell Grants or other financial aid to pay for ACLI ESL classes. In an effort to remain affordable, ACLI has kept tuition increases to a minimum and remains competitive with other community college-based ESL programs. However, if NOVA could secure grant funding for ESL students—which it seeks occasionally—it would improve student outcomes by allowing the continuation of their studies.

A secondary challenge facing international and resident students at NOVA is the perceived duplication of ESL programs at the college. While ACLI acts as a feeder program into College ESL, a lack of sequential-level identification across both programs often confuses prospective students. NOVA has expedited the transition between the two programs through the use of a Bridge Writing Exam. ACLI also implemented a college-wide placement test of writing, speaking, and listening, and college-wide objective statements for each ACLI level.

Strategies for Success: Why It Works

Staffing: NOVA has created a new centralized staff position—ESL & TESOL Program Developer and Instructional Designer Cynthia Hatch—to evaluate and lead the Career Readiness redesign of ACLI ESL programs across five campuses. Hatch is also responsible for leading a college-wide curriculum review team.

Assessment: ACLI staff conducts thorough needs assessments via pre- and post-tests. They conduct a post-program assessment involving all stakeholders, such as students, instructors, and contract employers.

Professional Development: NOVA provides its ACLI instructors with ongoing professional development via annual Teacher Appreciation Days—mini-conferences with teacher trainers from NOVA Workforce’s TESOL Certificate Program, instructors, and guest speakers.

Partnerships: Internal partnerships across NOVA’s campuses are critical to ACLI’s success, and there are several efforts to improve the transition of ACLI students into college-level programs. Staff in the for-credit College ESL program help ACLI students advance by evaluating exit-level Intensive English Program students’ readiness to enter the College ESL program, via the Accuplacer Exam and a Bridge Writing Exam. NOVA Workforce’s Student Success Advisors provide career and college advising for ACLI students interested in pursuing credit or noncredit workforce credential programs.

Finally, also critical to ACLI’s success is the number of external partners—such as local literacy councils, public schools, and nonprofit organizations—that regularly refer ESL students to ACLI to continue to study English or enter College ESL. International entities such as the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission and universities in Turkey and Brazil have provided funding for student scholarships and faculty professional development.

Steven B. Partridge, NOVA Workforce vice president, noted, The life cycle of educational programs is getting shorter; therefore educational institutions must constantly redesign our offerings to meet the needs of today’s diverse workforce. To ensure we develop the skills demanded by employers, we must be intentional in creating meaningful training for students and employers, while also ensuring any training we offer is both stackable and has a clear path to real-world employment opportunities. With NOVA Workforce’s Career Readiness program, for the first time, English-language learners can transition from contextualized ESL instruction to Workforce Credentials programs, thereby providing students with a pathway to earn credentials in Northern Virginia’s high-demand sectors.”

This is the final installment of a three-part series on training immigrants in the culture and language of the workplace. The full case study on how Northern Virginia Community College supports immigrant and international students through its American Culture and Language Institute can be found here.

Please share your comments @CCCIE or success stories in a short paragraph description on Facebook. Let us know why it was a success. Does your college have successful business models to build career pathways for immigrant students to transition them from ESL to the workplace? What is the role of employer partnerships to make this transition a success? We’d like to hear from you!

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Student Spotlight: Olympew Jordan

Click on the image to enlarge:

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Education and Career Support at Cornerstones

NOVA workforce career counselor, Jennifer Merrill, is leading an information session at Cornerstones to provide customized career insight and support.

Cornerstones is a nonprofit organization that assists clients in gaining self-sufficiency. Cornerstones provides resources including food, shelter, housing, childcare, and other services.

Various clients of the Cornerstones programs will take part in the career session, as an initial step in going to school for a certification or Associate degree at NOVA. Jennifer will help each client understand how to enroll in classes at NOVA, how to apply for financial aid, and receive any other support the clients may need.

The clients will have the opportunity to develop their future career paths and educational goals at the session. Jennifer will offer insight on credit courses, noncredit courses, and the variety of opportunities available at NOVA.

NOVA Workforce is continually looking for ways to support the community through events like this information session at Cornerstones. Career counselors are available for customized support and guidance. For more information, please contact novaworkforce@nvcc.edu.

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