Our View: Educators answer the call for a better worker

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America’s workforce is an ever-changing mosaic – especially in these times – and having the right skills can be the difference between earning a paycheck and hunting for one.
That’s why Sierra College and local educators need to be praised for coming together and working on a curriculum that not only creates book-smart employees, but those that have the critical thinking skills needed to perform on the job.
It’s no secret that workers in the 21st century must have a more advanced skill set to succeed, and it makes sense to start cultivating that early. This is why Sierra College’s new professional development program, Applied Critical Thinking for Advanced Technological Education (ACTivATE), was created — to refocus high school curriculums on teaching analytical and cognitive skills.
Recently more than 40 educators from Placer and Nevada counties got together in Auburn to discuss the new program and how they will institute the curriculum in the new school year.  The program will ask teachers to focus on creativity and innovation, critical thinking and communication, problem solving, flexibility and adaptability, taking initiative and self direction and technical mathematics.
These days it’s not enough just to know how something works in theory, you have to be able to problem solve and create solutions to problems that may arise. Instead of looking for an easy way around a difficult situation, or simply giving up, employers are looking for workers who possess the mental skills and self-discipline to succeed.
Sierra’s program, which gets under way this summer for educators, will work to bridge that gap in critical thinking and hopefully prepare students for the working world when they graduate, if they choose that path. Or, this curriculum will simply give students a leg up when it comes to attending college or technical school.
“Over and over again, we hear that they need employees that can problem solve, they can think critically, they can work independently, they can communicate effectively … so what we decided to do was pay attention to that,” Carol Pepper-Kittredge, director of the Center For Applied Competitive Technologies at Sierra College told the Journal.
Kudos must also be given to the business community. Employers know what they’re looking for when they have an open position, but finding the right candidate can be troublesome. So members of the manufacturing and technical fields came to Sierra College and, in a sense, asked for a better employee.
Sierra listened and is working with local teachers, from Placer High School to Del Oro  and many more, to create a program that will not only benefit local business, but employees themselves.
“It’s not just knowing the answers anymore, it’s rather an approach to solving whatever problem they may face, whether that be in furthering their education … or in industry,” James Anderson, a Mechatronics teacher at Placer High School told the Journal.
We’re taught very early on, education is the key to success. Having the critical thinking and cognitive skills to take on almost any situation will go a long way in not only creating a better worker, but an individual who can live a successful life.