The Roundhouse in Santa Fe. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
SANTA Fe — House Bill 63, a bill to create a statewide, comprehensive, standards-based ‘soft skills’ program for high school and middle school students has passed the House Education Committee.
Sponsored by House Majority Leader Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton (D-Albuquerque), the bill makes a $4 million appropriation from the general fund to develop a curriculum and implement online courses tailored to meet the needs of New Mexico’s students and evolving job market.
“We want an education system that prepares our youth for success,” Majority Leader Stapleton said. “Investing in soft skills education is a proven workforce development method. Employers, parents, and teachers have told us we need a stronger focus on these skills. I think these courses will be enormously beneficial to students, whether they plan to start their careers after high school or go on to higher education.”
Across the state, many business owners say employees often lack ‘soft skills’ or key workplace competencies such as communication skills, computer and internet skills, time management, teamwork, and leadership skills. Those weaknesses affect businesses and can prevent employees from advancing in their careers. That need was the impetus to introduce HB 63.
The program’s development will be led by the University of New Mexico and consist of online courses tailored to these areas as well as resume and job interview preparation and career assessment. The courses will be available for teachers to incorporate in their curriculum both in career and technical settings as well as traditional middle and high schools.
“We have to keep driving forward on improving our education system, adding STEM programming, and creating positive environments in our schools. We also need to make sure that we look beyond the traditional curriculum in order to prepare our students for the workplace,” Majority Leader Stapleton said. “The benefits of soft skills training have been proven in adult workforce development programs for decades. I think it makes a lot of sense to make it available in our schools as well.”