MazioCreate - Bloggin' Teacher
Soft or hard options don't refer to your preference for boiled eggs or choice of dessert i.e. chocolate blancmange or sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce and almond praline - the hard bit. (I'm getting ready for the winter treats.) They refer to knowledge and skills related to your job / career and how you go about doing that job. About ten years ago I was a member of a working party that was involved in the development of guidelines for a Certificate 1 in Life Skills for people who have a disability. Our facilitator gave us very broad guidelines, except for one point, there were to be no soft options under discussion only hard or skill based options. The people with the money had spoken and we were to follow this mandate to the letter, or in this case syllable. Our money people were the state government and we all worked in the state education department, but did that mean we had to take this mandate lying down? Absolutely not! Well maybe, if we wanted a specific course for this group of people. Okay we had no recourse on this matter, but maybe there was another way.
Before I regale you with the outcome from that working party, let's consider the blancmange option. The blancmange or soft option, (be it vanilla, strawberry or chocolate), refers to interpersonal and personal skills. Companies spend considerable money ensuring they have the right person for the job. That not only means an extensive skill and knowledge base, but the ability to work with colleagues and clients. To ferret out the best applicant for a position, HR groups or departments put applicants through a virtual application boot camp with psychological screening tests, skill demonstrations through virtual work scenarios and a barrage of open ended questions. All this to find out if they can communicate, are empathetic problem solvers who have time management skills or are simply interview masochists. As a Big Bang Theory fan, I cringe at the thought of being lumbered with the likes of Dr Sheldon Cooper as a colleague. Now who's talking soft options? I don't know about you, but I prefer a professional and / or tradesperson who "knows" their job, but can also 'blancmangerise' and relate the problem / issue to me and how they are going to rectify it.
After watching the video below, if you don't know the show, you may well ask why did the 'powers that be' only want the hard options for this course. I'm still shaking my head over that one. However, one task I undertook during this initial phase of the project was developing and conducting a survey of employers. The topic of the survey, yep, you guessed it - what are the training and work skills employers are searching for when hiring a new employee. I was able to interview fifty odd employers across a range of work places e.g. panel beating, office administration, travel agency, bicycle sales and repair etc, to get this vital information. After careful collation of this data (tally marks had their day), believe it or not, employers were not in favour of a Sheldon Cooper in the work place. They wanted people they could train, "...not retrain...", they were after people who had good listening skills (Communications 101), someone who could follow instructions and, if they didn't understand the instructions actually ask a question for clarification. There was a hundred percent response for promptness (a tick for time management). Yes ladies and gentlemen, employers wanted their employees to turn up on time, return from breaks on time and have a simple understanding of task analysis. THE SOFT OPTIONS!
A quiet, "Give us the blancmange!", behind my hand before reporting the survey findings, gave me some satisfaction. This was not new information to the members of the working party or myself, as we had all been delivering courses to marginalised groups for some time. Did this feedback change the mandate for the working party? In a word, NO! Did that stop the working party from making recommendations based on the survey findings? NO! Where did that leave me as a teacher? The team and I continued to develop and deliver vocational courses that included 'blancmange' option training modules to our target groups. These courses were also supported by literacy and numeracy units. Outcomes from our courses (70% - 80% of students either commenced part or full time employment or articulated into mainstream vocational courses) and feedback from support workers and employers only continued to reinforce the combination of soft and hard options was the road to training success.