Tucker County High School students learned about the necessity of "soft" skills in the workplace during the Tucker County Career Quest conference, held Thursday at the school.
The event's speakers, West Virginia Department of Education Assistant State Superintendent Dr. Kathy D'Antoni, Sen. Bob Williams, D-Taylor, and Del. Stan Shaver, D-Preston, emphasized the availability of jobs for people who are willing to work hard, stay focused and be team players.
"There are 33,000 jobs openings in West Virginia and there are 10 million jobs available nationally," D'Antoni said.
The Inter-Mountain photos by Joe Hoover
Tucker County High School theatre student Reuben Heath demonstrates improper workplace behavior by disgusting an interview panel with noisy and indelicate tobacco chewing on Thursday. Pictured are, from left, Heath, Donna Orr, Jay Hamric and Traci Chenoweth.
"However, if you want to be successful you have to be professionals. You have to be responsible and respectable."
Driving home her point, D'Antoni initially appeared on stage in a hooded sweat-shirt, baggy pants and a baseball cap - typifying the slovenly stereotype of America's youth.
She spoke about the importance of appearance and self-respect and, simultaneously, discarded her costume to reveal a lower layer of clothes, which were professional and elegant.
"Hoodies don't work, if you're going to enter the professional world," D'Antoni said.
Reinforcing the sentiments of D'Antoni's statements, TCHS's theatre students addressed inappropriate workplace behavior through a series of vignettes that depicted various faux pas.
From slovenly, promiscuous and drug abusing interviewees to rude, deceitful and inattentive employees, the school's actors and actresses offered the audience a host of negative examples that left the audience in stitches.
With less humor, however, the conference's speakers said that the seemingly outrageous performances did not fall so far from reality.
Shaver said that recent data have shown that many West Virginia high school graduates and even college graduates are not ready for a work environment.
"Employers have reported that West Virginia graduates are not prepared for the work place," Shaver said.
"I hope you have paid attention to the skits, because they show you what is wrong with our society."
Williams also emphasized the importance of basic professional skills.
"If you want to be successful, you need human skills," Williams said. "Show up on time. Pay attention. Be honest. Be dependable."
Reuben Heath, a 17-year-old TCHS senior and member of the Theatre Department, agreed with the conference's message.
"If you go to college, get a relevant degree and work hard, you're going to get a job," he said.
D'Antoni also believes that jobs are available for people who are willing to work hard.
"The job market is not grim, what is grim is that people do not have the necessary skills.," she said "There is a huge shortage of employability skills."
However, despite D'Antoni's positive outlook, both state and national employment statistics show a deficit of jobs.
The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy's most recent Job Count states that while the ratio of unemployed workers for available jobs is declining, the ratio is still 3.7 workers for every job opening.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' April Employment Situation Summary, 12.7 million United States citizens are unemployed.
"The ratio is still more than double its pre-recession level, suggesting that the job market is still challenging for unemployed workers in the nation and in West Virginia," the WVCBP Job Count claims.
Nonetheless, the conference offered TCHS students a lesson in workplace conduct that the attending professionals and guest speakers agreed was instrumental for the students' success.
"Tucker County High School and Career Complex have done an outstanding job," D'Antoni said, addressing the school's students.
"I really hope you take today's lessons to heart. The future of West Virginia is in your hands."
Contact Joe Hoover by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.