Opinion | Working with children provides the skills employers are looking for

By Kartik Kannan, For The Pitt News

As Generation Z has grown up and prepared to enter the global workforce, they have seen the world become a whirlwind of constant change. 

Whether for better or worse, every facet of life, from how we socialize to how we carry out economic transactions, has been revolutionized in the past two decades. With these developments, though, has come a new obstacle that Generation Z is now beginning to face — the hiring process.

In the past, employers typically valued the education, accolades and technical skills that prospective candidates had. Jobs, in the past, were merit-based positions, with a candidate’s merit being derived from their individual successes. However, while education and experience still hold some weight in the hiring process, employers are now focusing on hiring workers who possess the skills that would allow them to seamlessly transition into the workplace. As a result, members of Generation Z are now required to be able to lead effectively and solve complex problems creatively in order to stand out to prospective employers.

Unfortunately, the reality of college is that our classes are not preparing us to become the competitive applicants for which employers look. Research shows that students often fail to permanently retain a majority of the academic information they learn in their post-secondary studies. Additionally, while extracurricular clubs like student government and volunteering organizations can help students develop the leadership and problem-solving skills employers look for, the time constraints created by academic demands can limit students’ abilities to gain the full experience needed to hone and refine these skills. 

These observations lead to an important question. If college is limiting students’ ability to become well-rounded job applicants, then what can students do to develop the skills that will lead to them being hired and succeeding in the ever-changing workforce? The answer lies in child care. 

Oftentimes, people think that to have a true experience in child care, one has to work in a full-time capacity, such as a babysitter, day care worker or camp counselor. But that is not necessarily the case. Unlike clubs and classes that only operate during the academic year, many opportunities to work with children present themselves throughout the year in the form of tutoring, athletic coaching, music lessons and more. No matter the position and time spent working with children, college students can develop the skills that will help them stand out to employers.

One of the main skills that college students can develop when working with children is leadership ability. Since children are more dependent on a leader to perform certain actions for them — such as defining behavioral norms and escorting them to different locations — working with children allows college students to refine the facets of leadership, such as communicating effectively and empathizing with others. Given the challenges that can come with working with children, the success of leaders in child care comes from the thorough development of these skills. This in turn makes a college student appealing to a future employer — after all, if a student could effectively lead children in accomplishing a given goal, whether it be doing better in school or winning an athletic championship, then the possibilities for what that student can accomplish as a leader in the workforce are endless.

Another one of the skills that child care helps college students develop is the ability to solve problems creatively.  Because of the behavioral capacity of children, problems can arise in all types of child care. For example, camp and day care settings can see issues arise like fights between children or outbursts of poor behavior from specific individuals, whereas education-based settings can see issues like children frustrated by their learning abilities or with the information that they are learning. 

Since children cannot readily handle nuanced circumstances, college students can develop their problem-solving skills by taking on these situations and working to make the situation better for everyone involved. Often, a bit of creativity is involved, whether it be in figuring out how to get an uncooperative child to behave or how to help a child become a better learner, which in turn develops the creative thinking skills of college students engaging in child care. Ultimately, when searching for the best applicants, employers would be undoubtedly intrigued by how a college student could implement the problem-solving skills developed from work in child care.

Having worked before as a computer science tutor and as a camp counselor, I have learned firsthand the value of working in child care. I have seen the development of many of the skills discussed above within me in these positions, and they have benefitted me in my interactions in school, extracurriculars and the community.

In a world that is constantly changing, sometimes the best way to stay ahead is by being unconventional, and when it comes to preparing for the hiring process, gaining experience in child care may be the best way to develop the skills that help applicants stand out and gain their dream jobs.