The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced that only two out of ten individuals with a disability are able to find and keep a job.  I ask myself, “Why is this?”

This simple question has no simple answer. There are many reasons that can cause a 20% employment rate for individuals with disabilities, as well as the over 50% unemployment rate for high school dropouts. In an attempt to keep this brief, I will focus on one key issue—How our educational institutions prepare young people to enter the workforce.

The Wrong Focus

Historically, the focus in education has been on academic skills. I am not going to say academic skills are not important, however the majority of jobs in this country require academic skills at approximately 5th-8th grade reading and math levels.  To make matters worse, most of the workplace credentialing systems in existence were developed by organizations that want to keep the academic myth alive. It is their livelihoods at stake here. A recent study of the skills gap in recent college graduates had this summary statement: “Research shows that only 15% of worker success is determined by what they know (hard skills). The other 85% of success is determined by soft skills.”  With that being said, why is the main focus on academic skills over soft skills?

The answer is simple—teaching academic skills is what we do. It is what we are familiar with.

Looking Beyond Academics

It is very difficult to let go of these basic skills myths. It is even more difficult to embrace a new system of soft skills, skills that are more difficult to assess and teach.  But let go we must.

Recent employer research has uncovered some of the skills that are critical for success in the workplace, and guess what, there are other “non-academic” skills that are far more important for success. Some of these skills are: possessing a good attitude, ability to communicate, planning and organizing, critical thinking, social skills, teamwork and professionalism.

Give Them A Chance

A school boy not interested in reading

I have to admit that when I was a young man, I did not do very well in the academic world. In fact, I struggled mightily.  I struggled for some time, until I began to realize that there are other ways to succeed in that academic world. I could use my brain to critically think. I could use my skills to solve problems that many of my more academically proficient classmates could not solve. In fact, by the time I became a junior in college, I realized that my entire academic world was turned upside down. They told me that I was not very smart and I believed them…at first. Once I realized that they were wrong, everything changed.

There is a reason why one third of all entrepreneurs in this country have some sort of “learning disability.” They have learned to think differently, outside the box.

We at The Conover Company are proud to announce that we are working on a whole new workplace credentialing system that gives people who are not academically inclined a chance at success.  This system levels the playing field for those who cannot succeed in the old academic-driven system that overlooks the obvious. We call this new system Conover® Workplace Readiness Credential™. Within our system there is an academic component (Learning Assessment Programs), however there is also a huge social/emotional intelligence emphasis. This social/emotional intelligence system includes our Personal Responsibility—Achieving Academic and Career Goals and The Success Profiler®, along with our Workplace Readiness Credential system.