Communication skills are important for those entering the workforce
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
When I was a child, I used to receive long, handwritten letters from my grandmother containing pearls of wisdom that I appreciate more with each passing year. She understood the art of communication in writing.
From her letters, some of Grandmother’s interest in communicating in writing got passed on to me. It has stood me in good stead over the years.
I thought about my grandmother’s letters recently as I was preparing for a keynote address I gave at a DaVinci Institute event honoring a special group of Oklahoma educators and student teachers for creativity in the education process.
The DaVinci Institute has the mission of improving K-12 education and to “promote a statewide creative renaissance,” and gives recognition and grants to educators who come up with great new ways of teaching. I like what they do.
My topic for the speech was Education for Innovation. There are two parts to that. One is that we need more technology graduates and expanded STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education for all students.
Companies large and small are crying out for people with science and technology skills. There are 2.5 entry level job postings for each new bachelor’s degree recipient in a STEM field, compare with 1.1 postings for non-STEM positions.
At more than 8.4 million jobs, STEM occupations are growing faster than any other type of jobs — 20 percent since 2000.
But the perception that the business sector wants people trained to do the technical aspects of their jobs misses what the business sector really needs. Businesses need people who have essential technical foundational knowledge so they can provide training for the specific technical requirements of the particular job.
However, businesses also need something additional from the higher education system — graduates who possess critical thinking and problem solving skills, and have the ability to be strong communicators — verbally and in writing.
That’s why the initial emphasis of the Governor’s Cup Business Plan competition is on a written business plan.
Teams earn their way to the oral presentation stages of the competition by writing (and rewriting, often many times) a cohesive and cogent business plan — a written plan that communicates technical concepts and original ideas so clearly that a stranger who reads it understands.
In these days of texting, email and emojis, long handwritten letters like my grandmother wrote rarely happen anymore.
I’m not advocating we all trade our keyboards and keypads in for pencils and pens, but I do think we’ve lost something — something more important than handwriting.
It takes critical thinking to be able to communicate on a page or even a computer screen. And we need more critical thinkers — lots more.
Read the story at The Oklahoman. (Requires subscription)
Did You Know?
According to a test of nearly 32,000 students, up to four in 10 U.S. college students graduate without the complex reasoning skills to manage white-collar work.
Source: Wall Street Journal
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at [email protected].