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Soft Skills – Not Just Technical Skills – are Crucial to Getting and Keeping a Job in Today’s Workforce

November 17, 2021

By Patrick Bourke, Program Officer, Career Readiness

Today’s workforce is competitive and constantly changing. The pandemic changed the very nature of work for many Americans; it forced employees to be more flexible and problem solve in real time. The ability to demonstrate adaptability under pressure is one example of what can be categorized as “soft skills.”

Soft skills (also commonly referred to as twenty-first century skills, employability skills, professional skills, personal success skills and other names) relate to how an individual communicates (including verbal, non-verbal and written communication), listens, manages time, possesses a positive attitude, thinks critically, employs creativity, collaborates and adapts to change, among others. A person may exhibit excellent technical skills, but if they cannot communicate or manage their time effectively, they may not have an edge over another candidate who demonstrates those necessary foundational skills.

Across professional fields, employers are looking for employees who can adapt to work that’s ever-changing for various reasons, such as changes in technology and automation, increases in workplace diversity or shifts in corporate strategies.

In support of the importance of integrating soft skills into postsecondary education programs, ECMC Foundation provided funding to three organizations that are working to better prepare students for the workforce: Asia Society, World Education and Year Up.

Asia Society

Asia Society received funding to create, evaluate and disseminate professional development resources to improve global competence—referring to one’s ability to investigate the world, recognize perspectives, communicate ideas and take action—in postsecondary CTE. The goal of the project is to ensure postsecondary institutions offering CTE programs prepare students with the skills necessary to adapt to the evolving nature of work in an increasingly automated and diverse workplace. Click here to visit the Postsecondary CTE Global Competency Toolkit, which provides resources to help CTE educators integrate global issues and skills into what is being taught in their classrooms. 

World Education, Inc.

The National College Transition Network at World Education received funding to develop and implement the Personal & Workplace Success Skills Digital Library, a curated college of resources to guide the integration of personal and workplace success skills into curriculum and instruction, advising and coaching, assessment and program design. These resources were selected for adult education, higher education, workforce development and career and technical education programs serving adult and older youth learners and workers, including English language learners. They are developing Voices from the Field case studies to provide real-world examples of how educators teach and assess personal and workplace success skills using resources from the Library and are seeking workforce development and career and technical education programs to develop case studies. Click here to explore the resources in the Personal and Workplace Success Skills, which are free and available to any institution or program interested in utilizing them.

Year Up

Year Up received funding to codify its approach to professional skills development and test a set of tools with its partners. Click here to learn more about Career Labs, a modularized blended or in-person training program that combines Year Up’s proven program methodology and soft skills training to help entry-level talent build the competencies and mindsets needed to succeed in their careers. Year Up enables community based organizations, postsecondary institutions and employers to provide Career Labs to Opportunity Talent from low-income backgrounds, either delivering it themselves or working with Year Up-trained facilitators.

Through its funding initiatives, ECMC Foundation advocates for the integration of soft skills development in today’s career and technical education programs. Research shows that, while technical skills may get someone an interview, soft skills will enable an individual to join the workforce, stay employed and advance professionally in their career.

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