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Buzzwords Come and Go, But Soft Skills Are Here to Stay

June 01, 2016

By Peter J. Taylor, ECMC Foundation

In the education sector, new buzzwords and concepts are developed almost daily. While some are short-lived, others, such as “soft skills,” gain popularity and are integrated into the everyday vernacular of education professionals. At ECMC Foundation, we work with a range of institutions and organizations serving students across the nation in the post-secondary space, and we strive to stay informed of new developments.

Employers consistently highlight the prevalence of students graduating postsecondary education programs without soft skills, pointing to an ongoing skill gap among employees. The previous focus on technical and academic training without the integration of soft skills is not sufficient for career success and growth. Soft skills are ranked as the most in-demand skills across employer sectors, but they are also the least developed skills among incoming employees, receiving the least attention from educators within K-12 and postsecondary education systems.

Our partner grantees emphasize the need for students to have skills not always taught in the “traditional” classroom, such as communication, teamwork, critical thinking, grit, and adaptability. Because of its wide use and almost universal definition, ECMC Foundation has adopted the phrase soft skills for this class of abilities.

At the Foundation, we are committed to bringing attention to this issue and assisting in the development of solutions. Over the last year, ECMC Foundation invested in research to create a digital library of soft skills resources. These resources are intended to support the education community’s incorporation of soft skills into their curriculum and instruction. The library has more than 200 sources, including interventions, research, curricula and programs that address the soft skills gap. Through our research, we found there are specific components included in successful soft skills programs and a variety of terms used to refer to the same set of skills. To view our findings and promote knowledge sharing, we invite you to visit our library.

Although this is only one step towards addressing the skills gap in the workforce, we are committed to partnering with our education community and continuing to expand this living library with new and innovative resources. We also invite you to add relevant soft skills resources that are not yet found in the library. Please click here to submit your information or contact us with any ideas or questions.

Peter J. Taylor

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