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Tech Skills not enough - Students need Soft Skills

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As instructors of English or ESL/EFL, are we adequately preparing our students for the soft skills that employers seek (in addition to technology skills which this generation of learners have perfected more than previous generations)? Read an excerpt from this news article:
Posted: Sunday, November 9, 2014 10:30 pm

Economic Impact: STEM skills are important, but employers also value soft skills by Christine Chmura Richmond Times-Dispatch

The importance of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, knowledge in our labor market is talked about a lot. Jobs requiring that knowledge in STEM fields often pay much more than the average job. Many STEM jobs, such as computer programmers and operators, also are growing much faster than the average of all jobs. But STEM skills are not sufficient to succeed in the workforce.

A growing number of companies and government agencies across the state and country complain that workers don’t have the necessary “soft skills” — anything from teamwork and communicating to critical thinking.

The U.S. Department of Labor has a program that enables you to quantify the importance of soft skills in occupations. The program measures knowledge, skills and abilities in more than 700 occupations in the nation.

A couple of basic skills — active listening, critical thinking, communicating orally and in writing — can identify the importance of soft skills. Through surveys, each attribute is ranked from one to seven in terms of the level needed to perform a job.

A score of two in critical thinking, for example, means the worker can “determine whether a subordinate has a good excuse for being late.” A level of four means the worker can “evaluate customer complaints and determine appropriate responses,” and a six means the worker can “write a legal brief challenging a federal law.”

About 97% of occupations required soft skills ranging from 2.6 to 6.5. The need for these soft skills, in fact, is even more universal than, say, the need for math skills. The three occupations expected to add the most jobs in the U.S. over the next 10 years, according to the Labor Department, all have a level of critical thinking over a score of 5: personal care aides, registered nurses and retail salespeople.

Compared with math, the level of soft skills needed in all occupations was higher. Moreover, generally speaking, the greater the level of soft skills required, the higher the pay associated with the occupation. The bottom line is that STEM skills are important for many occupations, but employers value soft skills in all occupations.

Christine Chmura is president and chief economist at Chmura Economics & Analytics.

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