Posted on Monday, November 24, 2014


Sara Dunnigan, president and CEO of SJ Dunnigan Consulting, Inc., gestures during breakout session on employability skills. (Above: Dunnigan and State Board for Community Colleges member Robin Sullenberger)

Millennials grew up surrounded by technology. Mastering the tools of the trade – computers, hand-held devices, and social media – came easy.

But proficiency in one arena may have created a deficiency in another – communication.

Today’s employers are looking for people who can show value beyond the job description. Put simply, the most attractive candidates are those who can communicate – be it verbally or otherwise – with their co-workers and managers.

Employers also want everyone on the same page. But that can be challenging when employees are scattered across the country and in some cases, around the world.

During a breakout session of the VCCS Annual Meeting earlier this month, Sara Dunnigan – president and chief executive officer of SJDunnigan Consulting, Inc. – shared some of the findings of her research study on employability skills. The results were revealing. Sure, employers want their workers to be able to identify and solve problems but communicating ideas and solutions to others in ways that they prefer to receive them is fundamental to achieving success in today’s workplace.

“I worry sometimes that maybe those early work experiences that you and I had when we were 15 and 16 years old which were really formative at an important time, aren’t taking place. They (millennials) are academically proficient but some of their human interaction skills, critical thinking for example, are muscles that they just aren’t flexing earlier.”

Dunnigan feels Virginia’s Community Colleges are already doing a lot to help facilitate the development of these so-called “soft skills.”

She added that individuals need to understand how these career skills will impact their ability to become economically independent.

“It’s not an either or proposition. Technical skills are important but it’s equally important that they take the time to develop these other skills as well.”

An estimated 70 Virginia businesses took part in Dunnigan’s research survey.'

Craig Butterworth

A native of Richmond, Craig Butterworth is an award-winning broadcast journalist and communications professional. He has worked as a spokesperson, staff writer and editor for a variety of non-profit and for-profit organizations throughout the Richmond area.

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