The idea of Soft Skills and their proper place in our society is not new to our landscape. Yet, it has been academics and technical experience that have garnered the lion’s share of attention when pursuing success in life. Soft Skills have been relegated to the seasonings one applies to a meal cooked from Kindergarten through higher learning. Technical or ‘hard skills’ have remained a focal point from which our youth have been trained and graded.
That status no longer exists. Today ‘Soft’ Skills now means ‘Essential’ Skills.
In a recent survey, conducted by consultants at TalentQ, hundreds of hiring managers last year (2015) were asked what skills they were having trouble finding in job candidates. In those results, 80% said they couldn’t find enough potential hires with strong “soft” skills. Possessing sound communicational skills, effective speaking, and looking people in the eye were all in short supply.
After operating Kidventure Summer Camp programs for the past 22 years, we have seen our share of kids and the interpersonal skills they arrive with at camp. Over the course of these 22 years, we have noted a diminishment of these soft skills. Examples of this are seen in how children greet one another, the ability to hold effective conversations, the ability to speak to a room of other children, and the propensity to offer up ideas and suggestions among peers.
It is during this same period of time that the proliferation of personal technology and the amount of time our children have devoted to them has increased dramatically. It is my belief that much of the lack in soft skill development has been a product of the personal attention placed on technology and less on human interaction and relationships.
In a recent article in Fortune Magazine dated January 7, 2016, titled The Real World Skills College Graduates Must Have in 2016, Rick Gillis notes, “The fact is Millennials and Gen Zers spend so much time online that they often lack basic interpersonal skills, like shaking hands and looking someone in the eye.”
As a child, soft skills develop through the example set by family and peers, through our interactions on the playground and through trial and error. The level to which we develop our skills varies tremendously, but the common denominator is access to human interaction and the feedback we receive through that. As we spend more and more time with our devices and less with humans, the opportunity to secure sound ‘soft skills’ diminishes as well.
So what are we to do as parents, and what are the skills that we should be fostering at home? Having strong ‘soft’ skills will undoubtedly be a premium in the future. Not only in the workplace, but more importantly as it pertains to the happiness and well-being in your child’s personal life. Recognizing the importance of these skills is first, but creating opportunities to build them must be the essential next step.
In my next blog post, I will define what I consider to be the Ten Essential Skills. These are the skills I believe will give every child the best opportunity for success and happiness. The foundation of a happy and successful person is built upon character and a value system. Essential Skills seek to harness these traits and provide us with the opportunity to lead the most productive, happy, and sustainable lives possible, but that begins as child.
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