Character and Soft-Skills Development

In our rapidly changing and complex world, it is essential that the future workforce be equipped with the skills and competencies necessary to learn, problem-solve, collaborate effectively, and make ethical, responsible decisions. Yet, employers across the country consistently report gaps in soft skills like self-management, culture alignment, and initiative as primary concerns in talent development for employees at all levels. Chambers of commerce can play a unique role in helping employers address this challenge by ensuring that youth are receiving substantive opportunities to develop a holistic set of social and emotional skills and a strong character that will support their success in school, work, and life.

ACCE Resources

Chamber Examples

  • The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber (Iowa) operates Leader Valley, a whole-school prek-12 talent development initiative currently operating in twenty-three schools across five school districts. Using the Leader in Me model, Leader Valley seeks to equip their region's future talent pool with 21st century skills like leadership, accountability, problem solving, teamwork, cross-cultural skills, and more by providing youth with focused curriculum and authentic leadership opportunities.
  • The Noblesville Chamber of Commerce’s (Ind.) NobelsvilleWORKS campaign is a community-wide soft skills initiative intended to address workforce readiness needs in Noblesville. Through partnership with local schools, business, nonprofits, and the city’s Economic Development Department, the program seeks to generate awareness around the importance of soft skills like initiative, teamwork, honesty, respect, problem solving, and more.
  • The Lodi Chamber of Commerce’s (Calif.) “Mamas and Papas” afterschool program is primarily designed to help “poor readers” in the 3rd grade read at grade level. Through helping these young students read at a young age, the program’s “Mamas and Papas” mentors are sharing life principles like personal responsibility, encouragement, being a positive role model, and demonstrating character building values.
  • Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce’s (Ala.) Youth Leadership Program strives to cultivate leaders, and thus the communities they live in, that value fairness, diversity, and inclusion. Participants in the program undergo a seven-month leadership development program that includes community service, core competency and skill development workshops, and group projects designed to address student-identified community needs and issues.
  • Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce’s (Ky.) SCK LAUNCH initiative provides students with personal, professional, and academic development from kindergarten through graduation. Through partnerships with local school districts and industry leaders, Bowling Green chamber has demonstrated the impact that chambers can have on the future of their community’s youth. Of especial interest is the chamber’s implementation of the “Leader in Me” model, which provides youth with 21st Century life skills to support their future success. The program is reported to enhance students’ self-confidence, teamwork, initiative, responsibility, creativity, self-direction, leadership, problem-solving, communication, diversity awareness and academic performance.
  • Bristol County Chamber of Commerce's (Mass.) 2017 Southcoast Education Summit provided a day of professional development training for local teachers to focus on supporting social-emotional learning in their classrooms. Social-emotional learning competencies are directly correlated with the soft skills that employers say they need so badly in the new knowledge-based economy.
  • The Business Council of Westchester (N.Y.) focused their 2016 Youth Summit on five key areas of soft skill development including communication, self-awareness/self-esteem, goal setting, workplace behavior, and problem solving. The event paired attendees with mentors from the business community, allowing participants to engage in intensive personal and professional development while also becoming familiar with opportunities that exist in the workplace.
  • Greater Jackson Partnership’s (Miss.) Youth Leadership program takes high school sophomores and juniors through a six-month intensive leadership program in which they develop leadership skills by learning about their community and learning to be productive, engaged citizens. The program aims to support participants’ personal development by holding workshops that focus on navigating racial and cultural differences, community needs, and ethical decision-making. The program also offers participants opportunities for community service.

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Last Updated: 7/27/2018

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