Strong working relationships with colleagues, clients, and others were consistently described by all the interviewees as among the most important employability skills for technicians. Interpersonal skills comprise the capacity to connect with others and build trust. About 17% of the research articles included in our literature review on employability skills focused on interventions to support teamwork (49 articles). While a generation ago, the hands-on nature of technician skills might have excluded much focus on interpersonal skills, most technical careers today require considerable interaction with coworkers, managers, clients, and customers.
These skills are important not only for team productivity, but also client relations.
“We hear over and over again: ‘I have to feel comfortable that I can put them in front of a client. If I don’t feel comfortable, I’m not going to hire them’” (IT Educator 13).
Some employers noted that teamwork—while important at all levels—becomes more important as people advance in their careers. Industry interviewees described bad experiences when weaknesses in interpersonal skills were overlooked, leading to situations where they had to “clean up the mess” left by a team member. Though several employers repeatedly expressed confidence that they could help employees develop technical skills, many expressed doubt about their ability to improve interpersonal skills.