Soft skills are hard to find….

June 8, 2018

Dear Editor,

Why is it that past generations could stop going to school in the sixth grade and yet they were able to get a job and keep it? Not only that, but they were able to get good jobs that lead to promotions and a secure lifestyle. They had soft skills, that is how. Today’s students are leaving schools with a wealth of knowledge (hard skills), but they are lacking in soft skills. These soft skills are what employers really want and need.

Soft skills are within all of us. Soft skills don’t have to be taught, but they do need to be nurtured. Google defines soft skills as, “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.” It goes on to list the top 10 soft skills, self-motivated, leadership, responsibility, team work, problem solving, decisiveness, ability to work under pressure, flexibility, time management, and conflict resolution. These are the skills the older generation brought with them as they entered the work force years ago. They are also the same ones that many of today’s high school and college graduates lack.

Hard skills are defined as, “specific, teachable abilities that can be defined and measured”. These are the skills students go to school to learn: reading, writing, mathematics, sciences, history, and the arts.

Hard skills must be learned so that our students have the technical ability to do the advanced jobs of today, however they must also have soft skills to be successful in the workforce. Herein, lies the problem. State legislators and politicians have focused on getting more technologically advanced that we have minimized some fundamental needs. Schools can and do teach hard skills; they role model and emphasize soft skills as well. However, there is a disconnect between the support and funding for these two sets of skills.

Students are regularly monitored on their academic achievements (hard skills). Social and motivational achievements (soft skills) are elusive to define and asseses and even harder to correct. In fact, most soft skill evaluations take place in a discipline office, which is always a stressful situation for both the student and their parents.

Schools often reflect the needs of the people. Our students are getting smarter, but respect, civility, and perseverance seem to be on the decline. In years gone by, life required us to physically talk, play, and work together; soft skills were naturally instilled within us. In the virtual world of today where people work, talk, and play on-line, when and only with those whom they select, kids can opt-out of compassion and humanity. Schools alone cannot be expected to teach such personal beliefs and values. This is a problem of the people; we all must practice our soft skills.

We must recognize there is a solution to the following questions commonly asked. “What is wrong with kids today?” “Why can we not get employees that show up and work hard every day?” Soft skills are the answer to both of these questions. In the past, soft skills were not taught in schools, but rather they were instilled at home. As times change, schools and families need to become a united front. We have recognized the need for a skilled labor force, but we must also reinforce the attributes that will ensure effective interactions with others.

Educators try to hold students accountable for the attendance, assignments, and behaviors. They design and deliver lessons that reinforce positive work ethic, team-work, and pride. However, students must see these skills outside of school, as well.

Summer time is a break for students learning hard skills, but it is the perfect time for them to develop their soft skills. A summer time of leisure, waking up late, and playing on-line will only weaken their soft skills and reinforce negative attributes. Young ones need to be held accountable and be active. Whether it is an outdoor-unstructured-neighborhood game, getting a summer job, or daily household responsibilities. Soft skills are vital to a child’s success in the world.
It is ironic that hard work and solving difficult problems requires soft skills.

Andrew J. Frisch
Science and Math
Farwell High School

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