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Why Don’t Schools Teach Soft Skills?

If you’ve spent time browsing job listings, you’ve probably noticed that employers want candidates with excellent communication and interpersonal skills. Where and when do people gain these soft skills, though? It’s a critical need within the job market that’s often overlooked in high school and college.
soft skills
Image Credit: Gratisography/Pexels

The Importance of Soft Skills

What are soft skills? In short, they’re what makes it possible for people to work together. PayScale’s report, Leveling Up: How to Win in the Skills Economy, includes critical thinking/problem solving, attention to detail, communication, ownership, and leadership among the soft skills employers seek — and frequently find lacking in recent grads.

In today’s collaborative work environment, soft skills are essential. Even if you work as an individual more than as part of a team, you’ll still need to use interpersonal skills from time to time — to communicate your achievements to a boss, for example, or to negotiate salary and promotions. Soft skills are invaluable for getting what you want while keeping others happy.

Demand in the Market

If you have soft skills, it might be easier to find a new job. In a LinkedIn survey of 291 hiring managers, 59 percent said that it’s difficult to find employees with soft skills. Fifty-eight percent went on to say that the lack of candidates with strong soft skills is “limiting their company’s productivity.”

Do You Know What You're Worth?

This means that lots of businesses are actively looking to recruit those with soft skills. Providing examples of exemplary communication, organization, and social skills is essential for many occupations. These should always be included on a resume, especially if the job listing specifically refers to them as requirements.

With that said, it’s not advisable to lie on a resume. If young people aren’t being equipped with the skills that the job market demands, is it up to the education system to address this issue?

Schools Struggle to Keep Up

According to a 2013 Gallup poll, 80 percent of people strongly agree that today’s K-12 schools should teach students critical-thinking skills. Seventy-eight percent also agree that schools should teach communication skills. If this is the case, why does it seem like schools aren’t addressing these concerns?

The good news is, they’re beginning to. In Australia, the government has committed to a formal curriculum that includes critical and creative thinking, ethical capabilities, and intercultural understanding, from January 2017. Education policy in the U.S. has a way to catch up, unfortunately. With an emphasis on test scores and basic cognitive skills, a shift to including soft skills will require extra funding and training for teachers.

Tell Us What You Think

Should schools teach soft skills, or should individuals be responsible for their career development? We want to hear from you. Let us know your thoughts in the comments or join the discussion on Twitter.

Kirsty Wareing
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