Let’s Talk about “Soft Skills”

6:17 pm Uncategorized

Holly Barker, PLTW instructor, came by today with an article she was reading from Computerworld that had caught her attention. She wanted to discuss how the thoughts in the article could be incorporated into her lessons.  What followed was one of the best 20 minute discussions I had been in for a while. In this post I will try to focus on the gist of our conversation.

The four “key gaps” listed in the Computerworld article, as seen by the CIOs (Chief Information Officers) were:

  • an inadequate grip on business realities such as unrealistic expectations regarding entry salaries and the time commitment required in full-time work,
  • a narrow world view
  • poor relational and soft skills
  • a lack of career focus

The time Holly and I had was spent talking about the first and third bullets.  Generally we came to agree that at the high school level we could address the unrealistic expectations by

1.    Being sure that we involved our students in field trips that toured businesses and industries that would afford them the opportunity to see and hear from those who were engaged in that business. On these trips we would ask the business/industry person to discuss entry level salaries, realistic expectations regarding work hours, education and continuing education required, “soft skills and hard skills” necessary for entry level employment.  Realism would be the focus of the trip not idealism.  We could discuss the idealism back in the classroom.

2.    Being sure that our students are ready for Job Shadows or Internships and are given the opportunity to do just that. Our students need to see these activities as integral parts of their education.  The insight gained will help ensure that they make good, realistic decisions about what they really want to pursue after high school.

3.    Being sure that, when we give our students insight into the world of work, we make a definite distinction between what is offered at the beginning of a career and what they can expect later in that career.  In addition, since most of our students will remain in Utah, we want to make sure that the Utah data is given first.  References to other parts of the country may give a different picture.

As we began to talk about the other area, “soft skills,” we found that we opened a large “can of worms.” First, what are the “soft skills”? We were almost on the same page as we talked but realized that we could find more information by “binging” the concept.  This new search engine leads us to a Soft Skills Quiz. Curiosity got the best of us and, before you knew it, we were thinking through the 24 questions in the quiz and marking our answers. At the end when we clicked and got our results, we were pleased to see that “We were well grounded….”  If you would like to take this quiz, it is located at  

 http://www.bettersoftskills.com/quiz/  

From here Holly’s and my minds went “wild.”  It was obvious to us that we needed to learn more about what our community, both business professionals and educators, felt were “soft skills.”  In order to do this we began to throw out questions that we felt could be asked of our WSD Advisory Committee members and our teachers. Needless to say, time ran out before we could devise a comprehensive plan to gather this information.  Watch for a survey or questionnaire. 

Remember the title of this post is Let’s Talk about “Soft Skills.”   LET’S TALK!

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