Clayton State University's HUB Combats the 'Soft Skills Gap' with the Spirit Program
Clayton State University's HUB department is intelligent, computer savvy and always there to address the technical woes of faculty, staff and students. Technology is not the department's only focus, however. Their primary concern is providing exceptional technical support, which according to the HUB, encompasses more than just technology.
"We have found – as is common in technology – that complaints and compliments are almost always based on how the customer/client felt when receiving service and not on if the technical problem was fixed," says Joyce Sandusky, assistant director of Software Support and Training at Clayton State. "We realized that we had a very bright technical staff but we were not necessarily providing good technical support."
To counteract this dilemma, the department established the HUB Spirit Program in May 2001, dedicated to the overall professional advancement of HUB employees. The program was developed around the writings of renowned author and leader John Maxwell and former Yahoo executive Tim Sanders.
The HUB Spirit program is an intensive, non-technical program that focuses primarily on developing soft skills in HUB employees. HUB Spirit convenes annually and lasts for two days. The program consists of activities designed to educate participants on basic soft skills and to promote team spirit. It then concludes with an employer panel and graduation ceremony.
"The students are learning things that will benefit them once they graduate and work in a team environment full time," says Bridgette McDonald, Director of Career Services. "It teaches them the value of learning about themselves and learning about others."
Additionally, participants of HUB Spirit feel more professionally equipped after graduating from the program than they did prior to.
"I've heard from many of them, who completed the training, that they're much more relaxed when they go to their full-time interviews or internship interviews because of this training," says Bridgette McDonald.
Joshua Dookie, tech analyst and two-time HUB Spirit Program attendee, states the program has positively impacted the way he does his job.
"It has made me more qualified in the work environment and has made me more personable with co- workers and clients," he says.
Since it began in 2001, HUB Spirit has been quite the success, so much so that it has garnered the attention of top employers.
"Recruitment wise, we get contacted all the time by Turner, CNN and Norfolk Southern," says Bridgette McDonald. "There's some really good companies that use this program as a feeder program for recruitment purposes.”
In fact, CNN has hired fifteen HUB employees in the last five years and now recognizes the HUB as one of their two sources of employment.
Implementing soft skills in its employees is not only an issue in the field of technology, however. Employers of various fields across the nation have expressed their dissatisfaction with what seems to be millennial employees' lack of soft skills known as the 'soft skills gap'.
"It's the number one problem that employers identify today which is why I am a champion of this program," says Bridgette McDonald.
Sherry Belom, Associate Director of Client Support Services, hopes that as the HUB Spirit program's success continues to expand, other departments of colleges and universities will begin to implement similar soft skills training techniques.
"The learning experience should not end in the classroom," she states. "We employ students. We need to go that extra step. We need to nurture them to the fullest. That is our responsibility."