Bridging the Gap: How Schools & Youth Organizations Value Soft Skills Training

Posted by Steve Copacino on 7/6/17 10:00 AM

71% of training orgs consider soft skills very important to their student's long-term successIn last week’s post, we looked how employers value soft skills in the workplace. This week, we turn our attention to the “supply side” of the equation as we look at how training organizations value soft skills. By surveying leaders at career colleges, high schools, and youth organizations such as YouthBuild and Job Corps, we are able to get a better sense of how important these organizations see these skills, and what type of training they are currently offer to prepare their learners for the workplace.

Here are the top three takeaways from our survey of training organizations:

Training Organizations Understand the Importance of Soft Skills in the Workplace

As with employers, it’s clear that training organizations understand how important it is for their graduates to possess a solid foundation of soft skills, in relation to both their short term and long term success. When asked to rate the most important skills needed by learners to find a job, respondents ranked soft skills such as communication, professionalism, respect, and adaptability ahead of technical skills and even interview skills.

Likewise, when looking at the skills needed to succeed at their first job, it was again soft skills that lead the pack, with communication, professionalism, adaptability, teamwork, and respect all well ahead of technical skills or industry knowledge. Additionally, 79% of respondents saw soft skills as important to the long-term success of their learners - on par with the views shared by employers.


Their Graduates Soft Skills May Not Be Up to Par with Employers Expectations

While both employers and training organizations agree on the importance of soft skills in the workplace, there appears to be a distortion in how well graduates actually prepared to use these skills when entering the workforce. While 47% of leaders from training organizations acknowledged that there was a significant or very significant gap in their graduates soft skills compared to the level required by employers, this was 17% lower than the view shared by employers (64% identified a significant gap amongst entry-level employees).

On one hand this is to be expected, but this still highlights the need to establish a strong feedback loop between training organizations and employers. By conducting focus groups with local employers, or surveying companies where their graduates were placed at regular intervals (such as a year out), these training organizations can better understand where their graduates are excelling and what skills need to be further emphasized in their program.


The Value Organizations Place on Soft Skills Does Not Align with the Focus in the Classroom

For training organizations to close the soft skills gap and ensure their graduates possess the level of soft skills required by employers, they may want to emphasize more time in the classrooms to soft skills. As we saw earlier, training organizations considered soft skills more important to a graduate’s both short-term and long-term success. And yet, when asked to rank what their training programs focus on, the vast majority dedicated more time to hard or technical skills than soft skills.

Additionally, only 66% of organization offer any type of formal soft skills training program, and of those that do, 18% charge students for the training. And while there may be differences in teaching methods that require organizations to spend less time overall on soft skills compared to technical skills, these are skills that should still be reinforced and worked into all aspects of instruction.

From these survey results, it’s clear that a gap exists between training organization’s preparation and employer’s expectations. While both understand the importance and training organizations are working to incorporate this into their curricula, this needs to be done even more some. There are soft skills training programs that training organizations can utilize to seamlessly teach and measure learners gains in these skills - or they can even work with employers directly to create a program focused on the specific soft skills needed by their entry-level employees. By aligning soft skills training to employer expectations, organizations will only create better outcomes for their learners.


Recommended for You: Three Takeaways from Penn Foster’s Survey on Soft Skills in the Workplace

Topics: Youth Organizations, Public & Private High Schools, Employers, Colleges & Career Schools, soft skills

 

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