Business students form soft skills team for annual competition

By Dr. Kingsley Nwala

 business student competition teamThree ECSU students joined their peers across the University of North Carolina to compete in the 2016 UNC Social Entrepreneurship Conference. ECSU business students, Brian Hyman, Camaria Flowers, and Joel Gonzalez-Santiago, created the “ECSU Soft Skills Group” to represent the university in the annual competition.

 Teams from the 17 UNC campuses gathered at NC A&T State University in Greensboro for a daylong conference and competition focused on innovative approaches to challenges facing the state. The competition requires students to assess community needs and work in teams to develop innovative ways to address those needs. Students then write business plans which are focused on improving the community’s situation. These business plans are what the students present at the Social Entrepreneurship Conference

Once completed, ECSU’s students pitched their social business plan via YouTube to the judges in the 2016 Social Entrepreneurship Conference. The project was selected because employers have expressed that finding potential employees with quality soft skills is a serious problem.

 One in every four employers surveyed in the State of North Carolina said soft skills are as important as hard skills, and finding potential employees with excellent soft skills is becoming increasingly difficult. The ECSU Soft Skills Group intends to solve this problem by providing a 4-week program to 11th and 12th grade high school students in the three counties that surround ECSU- Pasquotank, Camden, and Perquimans. The goal is to expand the program to the other counties that encompass the northeastern, North Carolina region over time. An ECSU soft skills training certificate will be awarded to the students after completing the 4 week program. The training will be grouped into 4 modules covering (1) Effective communication skills (this will include oral presentations, resume writing, cover letters, etc.), (2) Building customer service skills and interpersonal skills (how to talk to customers professionally, proper customer service, mannerisms, and attitudes), (3) Teamwork and collaboration skills, and (4) Work environment and adaptability training (problem solving, critical thinking, and dependability).

 Each UNC campus selects Social Entrepreneurship representatives to facilitate the selection of students who will participate, review social entrepreneurship projects, assist the student teams in the development of their social business plans, and conduct the preparations for the competition.  Dr. Kingsley Nwala has been the ECSU campus representative for the previous three years. Dr. Vann Newkirk, Provost, selected Dr. Nwala and Dr. Coulson-Clark to be the campus representatives for 2016. Campus representatives work with the student teams, other faculty members across ECSU campus, and the ECSU Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) to produce an excellent business plan. This year, Dr. Ebere Oriaku, Dr Ngozi Oriaku, Dr. Yan Jin, and Dr. Debjani Kanjilal were the faculty advisers who worked with the students and campus representatives to ensure that ECSU students’ team delivered a quality project. Mr. Michael Twiddy, Ms. Jessica Young (both of ECSU SBTDC), and Ms. Lora Aples of the Northeastern Workforce Youth Development Program also worked extremely hard in preparing the students’ team.