A skilled workforce means more than workers having the technical skills to the job. Today, more employers are not only looking for employees who can do a job correctly, but they are looking for workers with a mastery of “soft skills.”

The definition of “soft skills” in today’s workplace includes having social skills, communication skills, character or personality traits, attitudes, career attributes and social intelligence that can help employees to navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well and achieve their goals. Soft skills can be everything from how a person speaks and listens to whether that person can work in a team or has the critical thinking skills needed to resolve conflicts.

According to a recent LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends report, 92 percent of talent acquisition professionals reported that “soft skills” are as important or more important to hire for than hard skills. And, 89 percent said that when a new hire doesn’t work out, it’s usually because they don’t have critical soft skills.

Experts say postsecondary students are more engaged, work-ready and creative when their classrooms are transformed into areas modeled after modern workplace. That is the premise behind the development of the Business Immersion Center at West Kentucky Community and Technical College.

The recently opened center allows WKCTC business faculty to bring enhanced technology and innovation into the classroom while surrounding students with a collaborative, creative workspace. Ultimately, the learning space is more fluid and less confining, allowing greater adaptability and flexibility.

The center, located on the second floor of WKCTC’s Rosenthal Hall in what was once a computer lab, is more open than a lecture hall. It includes two instructor workstations, laptops with docking stations, several laptops and Chromebooks for students to use at collaboration stations. Large wall-mounted flat screen televisions are also available for project presentations or to access streaming programs.

WKCTC student Kylie Cavanah described the center as giving her business administration class a “real world” feel.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “Normally you have to imagine how what we are learning in class or what we read in our textbooks is going to be like in the real world,” she said. “But here you kind of get to see what it’s going to look like and what you can expect in the workplace.”

A 2015 McCracken County High School graduate, Cavanah expects to complete her associate in science degree from WKCTC later this month, before transferring to Murray State University.

“I’m so jealous I’m not going to be here longer so I can actually get to experience the Business Immersion Center even more.”

Janett Blythe is the director of marketing and communications at West Kentucky Community and Technical College.

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