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CompTIA and PrepareU Team Up on Soft Skills Training

By - Source: Toms IT Pro
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In a recent CompTIA SmartBrief newsletter, the company said soft professional skills are an essential, and that "PrepareU is a new classroom-based course designed to equip technically skilled workers with the soft tools needed to advance their careers. Visit the Creating IT Futures blog to learn more.”

MORE: Finding Your Allies: 3 Essential Soft Skills

“Hmmm,” thought I to myself, “glad to see I’m not the only one who thinks that soft skills are important? I wonder what’s up here?” For the record, soft skills refer to basic work skills not related to a particular technical specialty or profession, but to the kinds of things that are both command and important in all kinds of work. Soft skill are very important for a successful and fulfilling career in IT and include:

  • Communication skills, both written and verbal
  • Interpersonal skills, particularly those related to helping colleagues and co-workers feel understood, appreciated and open to failure and mistakes on the path to learning and ultimate success
  • Organizational and management skills, such as project management, people management and process management
  • Time management abilities, including the ability to prioritize and handle what’s most important first 
  • Problem-solving skills, including both technical and non-technical problems
  • Ability to function well on a team, acting as a team member to support and promote all team members
  • Ability to accept and learn from criticism, as well as the ability to provide and deliver constructive criticism
  • Adaptability in the face of change and the demands inherent in managing multiple tasks
  • Research skills, or the ability to dig deeply and effectively into a broad range of subject matters to understand what’s already known, what represents best practices, and to find the most likely paths to successful problem resolution or design and development needs
  • A strong work ethic, which means being able to take initiative, assume responsibility and get things done right and on time
  • Emotional intelligence refers to one’s social skills and awareness, and ability to self-manage. It underlies many other soft skills.

CompTIA's article is titled “When soft skills are critical to tech career and company success.” If this is restated as a question, the only valid answer is “Always.” The story relates a collaboration between CompTIA’s spin-off charity arm Creating IT Futures and PrepareU, itself an arm of Creating IT Futures whose aim is to “help tech workers and students prepare for, obtain, and be successful in an IT career.” It’s a noble and laudable goal, but I wonder at the CompTIA-centric nature of this effort. 

Regardless, here’s what’s going on with the current PrepareU offering:

  1. PrepareU students must hold one or more IT certifications (preferably from CompTIA), an IT degree, or be enrolled in IT training of some kind.
  2. 30 to 60 hours of classroom training are involved.
  3. Soft skills/topics covered include communication, collaboration, conflict resolution, problem-solving skills, plus good workplace and career habits. 

At least one pilot version of the training has already been delivered, in St. Paul, MN. It also makes reference to one of the only topics missing on the preceding list in the PrepareU covering materials – namely, emotional intelligence – which is indeed covered though not explicitly mentioned in the curriculum description. Overall, this sounds like an excellent offering and worth looking into.

Digging a little more deeply into PrepareU sign-up information, here’s where and how the program is currently available:

  • The program is tuition-free for attendees and aims at entry-level IT workers including new workforce entrants and reskilling workers.
  • The program is currently available only in the Edina, MN, and Raleigh, NC, areas. Creating IT Futures is open to launching in more locations but needs local sponsorship for funding and staffing.
  • Applicants must be at least 18 years of age,  and be U.S. citizens or legal immigrants.
  • Applicants must have either a high school diploma or a GED. Alternatively, those with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in computer science or information technology, or who have earned an IT certification (CompTIA preferred), or who are enrolled in an IT training class working toward certification are also eligible.
  • Applicants must also have access to a computer with internet access.

It's too bad there are so few locations for this training in the country right now. I’d urge you to do what I’m going to do here in the Austin, TX area: I’m going to contact my local community college (Austin Community College, as it happens) and urge them to join this program and offer the PrepareU curriculum here in our area.