The 25th Annual Careers Conference hosted by The Center on Education and Work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (yeah! my alma mater) was a resounding success! With a theme of “The Future Is Here”, the keynotes and sessions were to provide career practitioners with strategies and program ideas for schools, colleges, and job centers to address career needs of the future. This is Part 1 of a 4-part series on the highlights of the sessions I attended or at which I presented.
The first keynote speaker, Jim Brazell, talked about the future of careers, what occupations will be in demand, and how education innovation that will be required. Fully 80% of emerging jobs will require STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) skills and knowledge. Whether in the healthcare, environmental, green technology, cybersecurity, or infrastructure industries, the high-demand jobs will revolve around the broad and deep interconnectedness of these skills.
Senior management from three Madison-headquartered companies with global branches and/or partnerships were featured in the Business Panel session. They all agreed that STEM skills training is vital and reflects in many of the occupations with fastest growth and occupations with largest numbers in growth. However, they added that “soft skills” were often the tipping point in the hiring process.
In other words, several candidates often possess comparable required technical training and experience. What they do not all have are a unique mix of soft skills and personal branding characteristics. The most desired of these include:
- global skills, such as expertise in other languages and/or cultures,
- diverse experience (large and small companies, US and non-US companies, clinical and corporate, etc.),
- relentless dedication and strong work ethic,
- a sense of urgency to get the job done well and quickly,
- a solution orientation and strong problem-solving skills, and
- an adaptable, collaborative team approach.
The Business Panel revealed that employers now have more of a focus on personal branding as a differentiator between candidates AND social network recruiting. All three employers said that hiring is not just about the degree you hold, but increasingly also about the passion you express for the company and what it does. “Drive can have the edge over more technically qualified candidates” according to Sue Gleason of SyzyGy50.