CompTIA Makes Strong Argument for Soft Skills
Given my repeated and emphatic exhortations on the importance of developing and cultivating soft skills for IT pros, I was more than tickled to recently discover CompTIA's new PrepareU website. The introduction to PrepareU reads:
"Soft skills are critical to tech career and company success. Are your employees and/or students well-versed in soft skills?"
Alas, for too many IT pros the answer to that question is, "No, not really. Do I have to?" And my answer to that glum rejoinder is a resounding, "Yes, you must!"
PrepareU is an initiative sponsored by CompTIA and some of its member organizations to deliver "interactive, classroom-based, soft skills lessons and labs that will help tech workers and students prepare for, obtain, and be successful in an IT career."
The program is based around real-life situations and scenarios designed to address improving communication and collaboration skills, developing and enhancing conflict resolution and problem-solving skills, and establishing good habits in the workplace and regarding career development.
Pilot programs that consist of 10 to 20 half-day sessions (one or two weeks of in-classroom time, in other words) will make their debut around the USA in the summer and fall of 2016.
What's on the PrepareU Menu?
CompTIA's goal with PrepareU is to get new workforce entrants ready to deal with the IT workplace, and to help current IT workers further develop and enhance their soft skills. Some of the program is aimed at job seekers, and won't be appropriate (or necessary) for those already working in the IT profession.
Here's the laundry list of items that PrepareU says the classes are intended to do for their attendees, reproduced verbatim:
? Create realistic expectations for an IT career.
? Prepare students for a job search and job interview.
? Develop good workplace habits and skills.
? Increase student confidence and motivation, emotional intelligence, and awareness of differing personalities.
? Build teamwork, including review of standard sexual harassment and diversity sensitivity policies.
? Demonstrate stress/anxiety management tools.
? Provide a realistic context of an IT work environment.
One pilot is getting underway in Raleigh, N.C. (session dates are June 20 through July 1, with applications due on or before May 31. Another pilot is scheduled for Minnesota's Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul (session dates: July 11-22; applications due on or before June 22).
Classes run from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Interested students from either of these geographical areas can apply online. IT companies, training outfits or schools interested in partnering for other pilots are encouraged to contact Eric Larson, the director of the sponsoring organization: IT Futures Labs (please note: Mr. Larson has a CompTIA e-mail address).
Here's the list of skills that CompTIA and IT Futures Labs report will be covered in the half-day class sessions in which those materials will be delivered. This list comes verbatim from a CompTIA press release dated April 20:
? Developing your personal brand and 60-second pitch
? Perfecting your resume and job interviewing skills
? Developing a team-player attitude
? Understanding the roles of social styles and Emotional Intelligence (EI)
? Using active-listening and being persuasive
The program comes with an impressive list of qualifications necessary to submit an application, and gives a pretty good idea about its current target audience. Here again, this list is reproduced verbatim: it specifically addresses students, then enumerates the various stipulation that they must meet to qualify for the upcoming Raleigh, NC pilot program:
? Live near the greater Raleigh, NC area
? Be at least 18 years old
? Be a U.S. citizen or legal immigrant
? Be a high school graduate or have a GED
? Have access to a computer with Internet connection
? Have already achieved an associate or bachelor's degree in computer science or information technology and/or have earned at least one IT certification (a CompTIA certification is preferred, but not required)
I'm guessing that some modification of the program is probably under development to reach out to the other major target audience for the materials – namely, IT professionals already working in the field (probably in the first 5 years of their working careers).
At any rate it will be interesting to see how this program proliferates, and what additional locations outside of Raleigh and Minneapolis/St. Paul will pop up.
What's Missing from the Current PrepareU Offerings?
As good as the premise on which PrepareU rests truly is, and taking into full account the value of the information it seeks to deliver, I wish it covered more. Other key soft skills useful for IT pros include oral and written communication, organization and basic project management, and time management, among many others.
It's a good start, to be sure, but it needs additional coverage of these and other topics to really help aspiring and early-career IT pros develop and cultivate a meaningful set of soft skills. While I'm dreaming, I'd also like to encourage CompTIA/IT Future Labs to think about developing self-paced, on-demand versions of these materials for all IT pros to benefit from.
This could really help to raise the bar for the whole profession, and help everybody in IT get better at their jobs.
For now, however, they're off to a good start. Please check it out for yourself, and see what YOU think. To see more of my writings on the topic of soft skills, check out this March 11 blog here at GoCertify, or run this Google search.