Power Skills

By: Dr. Vera Jacobson, CTE Director of San Mateo County Office of Education at vjlundeberg@smcoe.org

Empowering all students with knowledgeable and marketable skills ensuring success both in school and career is exciting to think about. Benjamin Franklin’s wisdom can be applied to a 21st-century mindset. Franklin taught us, “In America, people do not enquire of a stranger, What is he? But, What can he do?”. Because skills are now the new currency old Ben’s words were never truer. The sense of urgency with this work is noteworthy, as the world has changed dramatically and continues changing at a breakneck pace, demanding that education keep up. Career and Technical Education has changed to meet the demands of our 21st century, globalized world. I think our educational institutions must meet the needs of society, both for the well-being of the individual as well as the economy of the society. “Each child is a unique person, with unique needs, and the purpose of the educational system of this state is to enable each child to develop all of his or her own potential.”—California Education Code 33080
Power Skills can hold one key to teaching and inspiring all youth, particularly marginalized populations so that they can succeed in a society that has previously locked them out. In education Power Skills are housed under “social and emotional learning” and this canon of knowledge holds the key to the success of each and every student in public education as well as citizens of the world. When I was doing my research I found that in much of the literature I read from around the world the students’ voices were absent so my inquiry centered on students’ perception of Power Skills in relationship to their own sense of fulfillment, well-being, and empowerment. Capturing students’ experiences was the motivation, the challenge, and the underpinning for this study.
And then only last year I got stuck on the word “power” and I kept questioning myself. So I did a word count in my thesis and found that the participants of my study and I used the word “power” 126 times. Hmmm….it was there all along and I could not see it. But I finally did and then I wrote an article in “Techniques” our trade journal magazine, published in January where I renamed soft skills, Power Skills because they are powerful.”