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NWTC volunteers 'interview' 8th graders to help teach soft skills

Friday January 8, 2016
If you’re in 8th grade, you’ve got a lot of interviewing ahead—interviewing for college admission, for scholarships, for jobs, etc. Being prepared can reduce students’ stress and help them succeed. To help some local kids learn best practices early, NWTC staff volunteers were at Bay View Middle School this week to conduct mock interviews with Ms. Jordan’s classes. (See photos and story on Facebook)
 
“I was really nervous,” admits Alex Amble as she sits with friends at a library table. “I thought I would mess up or forget to breathe.” But being interviewed wasn’t as bad as she feared, she says.

 “I thought I would mess up or forget to breathe.” --Alex, before her interview

“It was actually a lot easier than I thought.” She said they discussed her strengths, including working well with others, plus her weaknesses and what she thought of herself. “It was useful because I got information that I need to explain more when I talk to people.”
 
NWTC's Sarah Scharenbrock brought the NWTC team and made a presentation about the importance of "soft skills." The group met with about 125 students from four classes.
 
NWTC Career Coach Sarah Scharenbrock helps middle school students learn soft skills“We are all impressed with how well prepared the 8th grade students were and their professionalism is inspiring,” said Scharenbrock, one of NWTC’s career coaches. “In fact, I think it would be fair to say that the 8th graders’ soft skills may surpass some adults!” 
 
Paige Farinholt said she thought the mock interviews were “really cool because I got good experience to use when we do serious interviews.” She said she highlighted her strengths—being organized and patient—and she would tell future students that the activity was “fun and really good experience.”
 
Luke Manty reported that “I was really nervous at first, but once I start talking I feel fine. I like the feedback so I know what to do differently next time,” like sitting up straighter, he said. He said they discussed the fact that he’s a good problem-solver in and outside the classroom, and that he procrastinates “a lot but I always get it in on time.” He and his classmates prepared by filling out a note sheet with possible interview questions.
 
Connie Jordan, College & Career Readiness teacher at Bay View, said, “The interviews help our 8th graders prepare for future experiences and opportunities such as job interviews, scholarship interviews, and/or academic presentations.  Throughout the quarter they created a resume, researched a career of interest and presented to a large group, are now researching scholarships which they will present to small groups.  This experience enables them to present themselves professionally to an adult.  They utilize soft skills, which they understand are vital to academic and career success as they present themselves.”
 
Having to interact with real interviewers is likely to make important lessons much more memorable, she said. “The interviewers provide feedback which will help students in the future.  Tips include making eye contact, posture, introductions, and asking questions.  While these are all taught in College & Career Readiness, this is an invaluable application and experience from someone they are meeting for the first time.”
 
She said they conducted the exercise for the first time last quarter, also with NWTC Career Coaches. “Many students were nervous then, but the most common comment after was ‘It wasn’t that bad,’ ‘It was easy,’ and/or ‘I learned from this.’  This quarter, many students are again nervous.  But they have been preparing and I think they’ll again do a terrific job.”
 
Scharenbrock said NWTC helps K-12 schools encourage soft skills because area employers say that many employees "may have the technical skills, but they are lacking soft skills. Research has shown that the earlier students learn soft skills, the more likely they are to succeed in and out of school.  The Mock Interviews are just a small part of helping make a difference in a way that will benefit the student and the community.”
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