Skills Versus Job Training

Group of construction workers

St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist and career consultant Amy Lindgren has an interesting take on job training. She says that job training only “approximates” what employers need and that most jobs require talents well beyond what any class or certificate program offers.

“Employers hire workers to DO something, not to BE something,” she writes. “That is, they need you to perform tasks, not to simply be certified whatever. Obvious, but easy to forget.”

Her approach? If you need a license to do a job, get one. If being certified might help you find a job, take short-term classes and look for contract assignments or other hands-on experiences. Look for volunteer opportunities. Or take on a few do-it-yourself gigs to reveal your talents in a field.

And do not undertake a skills-building effort in the dark. Talk to employers, says Lindgren. “By identifying the organizations you’d like to work for and then speaking with managers about the skills they need, you’ll be able to focus on the true goal, which is to be skilled and employable, not simply trained.”

Developing Skills While Looking for a Job

You should consider spending time developing new skills through volunteering. Don’t volunteer, of course, only for that reason. Yet be mindful that community organizations need help, and you have plenty to offer while you try out new career options, experiences and, potentially, leadership roles.

Every community usually has an organization — United Way is a major one — that helps people find volunteer opportunities. In larger cities, the openings are fairly numerous in most cases. Check your community newspaper, too, because many have a weekly feature listing volunteer opportunities in your neighborhood or your city.

In the Twin Cities, the following organizations are set up to match volunteers: Volunteer Match, Greater Twin Cities United Way and Hands on Twin Cities.  

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