A Hard Look at Soft Skill Development

Previously, I wrote about the fact that our high schools are not doing a good enough job of helping students develop the soft skills they will need to succeed in the workplace. I also noted that many HR professionals believe that making some changes to existing high school curriculum, and providing more experiential learning opportunities (i.e. volunteering or co-op), could help to address this problem. However, I wondered how students could even obtain such positions, if soft skills are important in the search for them.

I would first suggest that we start when children are young. All children can be taught how to communicate clearly,  the importance of being on time to appointments, and how to be courteous and a good team player. Parents and teachers can all play a part in teaching young people these important soft skills, just by working them into every day interactions. It needn’t be a difficult process, and it would go a long way to ensuring students’ success, not just in the workplace, but in life in general.

I think for too long now, students have been coddled and treated with kid gloves, in the misguided belief that this will preserve their self-esteem. I noted in the previous post how many times, students are not held accountable for turning in schoolwork late, or for repeatedly being late to class. By allowing them to get away with such behaviours, we miss out on the chance to help them develop useful soft skills, and to become more responsible people, and thus, more valuable workers.

Once students are accustomed to using soft skills in their school life and at home, they will be better positioned to obtain volunteering and co-op positions when they reach high school age. Their interviews will have a greater chance of going smoothly, since they will be better able to communicate and interact with the decision makers they will encounter. This strategy has the best chance of success if we start teaching our children from an early age, and not leaving it until it might be too late.

What do you all think? What is your take on the soft skills question? I’d love to hear from you!

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