GNTC’s Connie Smith will take reins at Labor Department’s soft-skills training program

August 15, 2016 GMT

Connie Smith, vice president for adult education at Georgia Northwestern Technical College, is stepping down at the end of the month.

Smith will oversee the Georgia Department of Labor’s GeorgiaBEST program, based in Atlanta, beginning Sept. 1.

BEST is an acronym for Business Ethics Student Training. The program, developed in 2011, was based on Labor Commissioner Mark Butler’s conversations with employers who were saying that so many students lacked soft skills when they entered the market place.

Discipline and character, attendance and punctuality, teamwork and good work habits are among the skill sets focused on in the program.

Other criteria for certification are productivity and academic performance, organization and responsibility, attitude and respect, self-management and time management, oral and written communication skills, appearance and professional image and social media ethics.

GeorgiaBEST was initially rolled out through high schools. Smith said the adult education program at GNTC got involved early on, and the program began to spread through that program at technical colleges across the state.

Butler said the program has been very successful and his goal is to broaden the scope of the clientele it serves. That will likely entail a change in the words making up the acronym — since “student” might not be applicable.

Smith has suggested Business Employability Skills Training.

Butler said a number of different community partners have invested in it as the usefulness of soft skills in a variety of situations becomes apparent.

“There’s a correctional facility in Blairsville that has taken to the program and adapted it to them,” Butler noted. “Then the technical college system has used it and adapted it to them, and we have been working with a business who has taken it and not only adapted it to their internship and co-op program but they are working with us to adapt it to their entire staff.”

Smith said she will be involved in the expansion to businesses and industries by helping to develop a curriculum for existing employees.

She said she also plans to expand the program throughout the state correctional system, “so that those who are incarcerated, before they re-enter, can get some soft skills training as well.”

Smith joined the team at GNTC in the fall of 2012. Prior to that, she was a regional economic development coordinator with the Georgia Department of Labor.