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  • Writer's pictureHenry Dorling

From the Classroom to the World: Why soft skills are more important than you think

School children in the playground

Schools insist on developing them. Industry is constantly looking for them. So what are soft skills, how can they be developed and where can we find them?

Traditionally the provision to develop soft skills within education has been in response to the fact that so many young people are having to follow a narrow prescribed curriculum crammed full of knowledge and facts that there is no time for them to develop other social or emotional skills or experience things outside of the curriculum which can develop their personality or widen their horizons. In England, for a long time now, the curriculum content and dominant pedagogical approach is knowledge centric and exam based, relying mostly on recall. Skills education is the poor relative.

Nowadays it is becoming apparent that young people need to have more time put aside in their education journey to address this, not only for their own personal development but because the modern workplace requires it. Soft skills are not looked at as ‘soft’ anymore. In fact these are some of the most important building blocks they will need for their future.

A report by Bloomberg in the US in 2016 found leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills to be the most required but least available skills across a number of industries. In a recent working paper the authors found that, ‘while employers value all skill sets, there is a greater demand for socio-emotional skills and higher-order cognitive skills than for basic cognitive or technical skills. In an OECD report relating to soft skills for the future, employers stated that a lack of specific soft skills can be a reason not to hire certain, mostly young, candidates suggesting a gap in the soft skills that employers want and the ones that exist in the future workforce. The report goes on to suggest that as well as adding to a particular job role, soft skill development can also increase a person’s well being therefore adding to the argument for the wide ranging benefits of this area and the huge need for it to be addressed.

In more evidence for the development of softer skills an academic paper by Durlak et al in 2011 shows how when Teachers introduced a comprehensive programme of social and emotional learning there was a significant improvement in social and emotional skills, attitudes and behaviour, with an 11% improvement in academic achievement. In recent LinkedIn Learning research, top of the list for the most sought after skills were creativity, collaboration, persuasion, and emotional intelligence, skills that are clearly linked with how you work with others and the generation of new ideas, not about what you know.

So what next? If schools are introducing more in depth programmes to expose young people to improve their soft skills and employers are demanding that their future workforce actually possess them, there is a real need to clearly evidence and showcase these skills. It is fair to say that skills such as resilience, emotional intelligence or even teamwork can sometimes be hard to demonstrate. Other than a list of bullet points and perhaps a reference from someone, how are young people going to fully evidence and show what soft skills they have, how they’ve improved them and where they have used them?

Once again this is where the globalbridge platform can fill that gap. A fully digitised learner profile with multimedia capabilities, globalbridge can record and evidence every element of soft skill development. From a video showing communication skills via a speech in a school assembly to a demonstration of resilience through a video of someone practising and succeeding in the skill of juggling, it is a space to showcase those skills that are prized by industry. With the ability to also record every experience a young person has had, be it work experience, sporting events, music, art or drama it can show where those skills have been developed, and can really level the playing field for everyone by digitally connecting the dots and showing a pathway for all.

The final word goes to Jo Malone from Persona Education in an extract from her excellent blog on the future workforce, education and skills.

"We have a responsibility as educators to support young people in developing skillsets that will help them not only in securing meaningful employment in the future, but also in maintaining an attitude that embraces lifelong learning and adaptability."

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