As employers continue to lament the soft-skills deficiencies they see in new hires, more attention is being paid to making these skills part of the educational curriculum. Many professional recruiters believe schools (and parents as well) need to do a better job at training students in the in-demand soft skills that they will need for success in any career. In the Sept. 2019 issue of USA Today Magazine, Chris Minnich writes, “Parents, teachers, and school administrators are in agreement about the importance of measuring students' softskills – such as critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork. . . .”
In addition to evaluating students for their soft skills, educators should also consider ways to coordinate with area businesses in order to expose students to the work environments where those skills will be needed. Options include unpaid internships, job shadowing, and guest-speaker events featuring local businesspeople. Connections like these can also help students discover careers that might interest them or find out whether a particular career they’ve considered is really a good fit.
Web-based courses in soft-skills instruction for middle and high school students have been available for several years, but some school districts have devised programs that bring together students with businesses to work on practical tasks that build soft skills. In the March 2019 issue of Education Week, Marva Hinton reports on an after-school program in metro Raleigh, NC, called District C. Students meet in groups “to solve complex, real-world problems” that are submitted by area businesses looking for ways to improve their performance. The assignments that the District C student groups have taken on range from coming up with improvements to the design of a juice bar/café in order to create a better customer experience, to helping a large real estate company streamline its internal communications.
One of the teachers who created the District C program is quoted as saying, “Employers need students who can face ambiguity, leverage the strengths of a diverse team, persevere when they're faced with challenges or problems, think creatively, analyze problems.” Programs like these are likely the best way for the educational community to help students meet their future employers’ needs.