Are we as parents, as educators, coaches, tutors and anyone else who work with today’s youth, doing all we can preparing middle and high school students for the workplace? What about the real world? Are we collectively doing all we can to best support the next generation? There is still the traditional focus on academic and technical/hard skills. But there’s another set of skills that’s also pivotal to students’ future workplace success—and its becoming clearer by the minute.
We’re talking about “soft skills,” or employ-ability skills. And, as a parent myself as well as someone whose sole purpose is to develop the life skill of effective communication strategies, our role in teaching these skills is growing.
What exactly are soft skills? They’re the non-technical “people” skills—often referred to as “21st century skills”—that help people secure and keep a job. They include skills related to professionalism, communication, a positive attitude and politeness, teamwork, problem-solving and critical thinking, and networking—the kinds of skills often mentioned in letters of recommendation. The types of skills most commonly seen as the top one or two on a job description.
While of course also important, hard skills—knowledge and technical skills represented in test scores, school transcripts, and on-the-job training and performance measures—will take young professionals only so far. Without the necessary soft skills, they may not be viewed as valued employees. Its shocking how “connected” today’s youth are. So connected that they can be in touch with someone around the corner or around the globe with a few twitches of their fingers and thumbs. What’s also shocking is the high level of apprehension around having any face to face interactions, regardless of who its with or what the topic is. I’m talking about a regular old fashioned conversation. Not via a screen or by a phone, in person! What about having a hard or difficult conversation? Do most of us, not just today’s youth, have these challenging conversations? Or do we run for the hills? Now more than ever, the world needs more face to face conversations.