On March 15, 2011, Career Agent, Nevaughan Moulds, shared with the KRA Youth Employability & Success students at Bayside and Green Run High Schools how, when she was growing up, African American kids never dreamed of, let alone talked about, becoming President of the United States; it was an impossible aspiration. Now, with our first African American President, she told them “anything is possible”…but you need more than just educational, vocational, or technical preparation. She then led the discussion in the direction of “diversity” and its presence…and importance…in the workplace.
Mrs. Moulds stressed that whether you are the target…or perpetrator…of discrimination, one must develop skills in the areas of problem-solving, oral communication, interpersonal interaction, and teamwork. Also, understanding of and tolerance for one another’s differences…diversity awareness skills…are critical to succeeding in an extremely multicultural/multiracial work environment. Without labeling it as such, Mrs. Moulds was engaging the students in “employability/soft skills” training; part of a set of workforce solutions that, in 2005, the DOL indentified as critical employer “hiring, training, and retention challenges.” In addition to Image, Recruitment, Language Skills, Consistent Training Models, and Skills Certifications, employers nationwide reported difficulty finding workers with basic Soft Skills…nontechnical skills, abilities, and traits.
Long before the DOL released its findings, KRA recognized that program participants, especially the youth population, with limited exposure to the world of work lacked the soft skills needed to get a job, stay employed, and advance; that problems with interpersonal and other soft skills were major barriers to their employment. This is why KRA’s job readiness programs assess and document participants’ soft skills, and then incorporate appropriate employability/soft skills training into vocational training and other program activities.
Mrs. Moulds believes “we should all want our children to grow up in a world free of bias and discrimination, to reach for their dreams, and to feel that whatever they want to accomplish in life is possible.” She discussed with the students how/why discrimination hurts; may leave scars that can last a lifetime; and affects one’s goals, ambitions, life choices, feelings, and self-worth. They also discussed terms, such as assumptions, bias, ethnicity, race, and stereotypes, and students gave examples of how these terms had affected them in certain experiences and situations. Some became aware that their own perspectives were not appropriate, and could be viewed possibly as racist or sexist; that discrimination is a two-way street, and that some of their own views were just as harmful as the views they believed other races, sexes, or religions had toward them.
Mrs. Moulds concluded “my goal as a KRA Career Agent is to teach them to be critical thinkers, specially about prejudice and discrimination. Critical thinking is achieved when we strive to understand diversity issues through examination and inquiry. Young people can begin to develop these skills early on, by being aware that prejudicial images and words are hurtful and unfair, and have no place in the workplace.”