The Incorporation of Soft Skills Programs in Higher Education
Conflict resolution, humility, problem solving, personal judgment, verbal communication, motivator and the list goes on and on. Because these skills are often high-valued in the workplace, some people include them on their resume so that they can seem more appealing to hiring agents.
What are soft skills? The Oxford Dictionary defines them as “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.”
Universities across the country, including a small Georgia liberal arts college, Reinhardt University, are implementing soft skills programs for their students. Such programs are usually structured differently from traditional learning courses. Reinhardt University offers a monthly Saturday course, each session focusing on a different topic such as mediation or emotional intelligence. “At the end of the session the students. . . write and reflect on what they learned and how they could realistically communicate that to an employer,” explained Reinhardt President, Kina Mallard.
These new soft skills programs are similar to digital badges in the way that they show alternative credentialing. Some have had doubts about the effectiveness of such programs, stating that employers can see in other ways the skills that potential employees have. For example, if a student was an athlete or held a job while in school, the employer could surmise that the potential employee is disciplined.
However, soft skills are meant to be conversation starters. Anyone can include a skill on his or her resume, but going through classes that teach these skills takes that a step further. They serve to reiterate declarations of accomplishments or a candidate’s proficiency in a particular subject. Colin Feehery, director of career services at Reinhardt, believes the program will set their students apart.
Mr. Feehery may be right. New research from LinkedIn, as reported by Business News Daily, suggests that employers want people who have the “technical know-how,” but that they also look for candidates with good organization and interpersonal skills. Guy Berger, an economist at LinkedIn, wrote that “hard skills vary based on the job, but soft skills are required for every job.”
Soft skills may have a meek sounding name, but they potentially offer a sharp competitive edge to career seekers.