Technical and educational institutions should focus on increasing soft skills to give their students the edge in today’s job market
There’s a gap today between the skills required by companies and the skills entry-level employees are bringing to the table. Referred to as the “skills gap,” this disparity is widening; not so much for hard skills, but for soft skills according to recent research by LinkedIn and Adecco. What has employers concerned isn’t technical skills, but harder-to-measure skills, commonly referred to as “soft skills.” Recent research identifies these “foundational skills” as lacking and employers are investing money in soft-skills training to close the gap. However, technical and educational institutions should also focus on increasing foundational soft skills to give their students the edge in today’s competitive job market.
With increasing emphasis upon ongoing freshening of technical and specialized hard skills, soft skills have gone stale, it seems. Ironically, it’s technology itself responsible for weakening soft skills such as interpersonal communication. Witness a recent employee’s tweet, “Today we lost our power for a few hours, and I actually talked to my coworkers for the first time!” Funny, yet scary, many companies have had to invest training dollars for entry-level employees to build up soft skills, like interpersonal communication, because it’s the skill most lacking in their newly-hired workforce.
LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner earlier this year stated:
"Somewhat surprisingly ... interpersonal skills is where we're seeing the biggest imbalance."
Weiner said in an interview on CNBC's Squawk Box, “Communications is the No. 1 skills gap across major cities in the United States.” Melissa Kersey, Chief People Officer of McDonald’s, echoes him in an ABC News opinions piece:
“Our nation is facing a shift in its workforce due to an aging population, automation, and an ongoing soft skills gap. Employers today are re-examining which skills matter most to them. Core soft skills -- customer service, teamwork, and responsibility -- matter, especially for individuals just starting out, as they establish a strong foundation from which they can build over the course of their career.”
Adecco, international staffing company, in a study of executives earlier this year said,
“Forty-four percent of the executives we surveyed think Americans are lacking soft skills – communication, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, etc. Thus, while candidates may look good “on paper,” they don’t know how to effectively work within a team or in an office. You need to evaluate everything a candidate brings to the table, including skills, personality and attitude. The fact that there is a skills gap probably comes as little surprise to you. However, what might come as a surprise is which skills are lacking among U.S. workers.”
Companies and educators are finding soft-skills training programs are helping to bridge the soft-skills gap and give their students an advantage in securing a great position. Now, is a good time to evaluate your curriculum and make sure it includes soft-skills training initiatives to increase the following critical soft skills in demand today:
- Interpersonal Communication
- Leadership Development
- Values Awareness
- Learning Strategies
- Critical Thinking Strategies
- Teamwork and Collaboration
- Emotional Intelligence
- Personal Goal Setting
Bridging the soft skills gap with StudentKeys
Soft-skills assessments and training, such as StudentKeys, implemented in high school, college, and on-the-job are so vital because it encourages better interpersonal communication skills necessary to keep companies competitive in our high-tech, global market place. Soft-skills training helps young people effectively avoid and resolve miscommunication and conflict, and helps to encourage collaboration. Better understanding of ourselves and others empowers people to thrive and succeed, and meet challenges which inspires trust and respect which is necessary for teamwork and leadership.