‘Soft skills’, usually rather dismissively attributed to women, are now the driving force for businesses all over the world, and educators should take lead by nurturing and reinforcing these skills with students at school level.
By reinforcing these ‘soft skills’, educators will prepare young students to enter the workforce with a skillset that allows them to compete equally.
Penny Demmer and Divine Muland, grade heads at Centennial Schools, say that research indicates that what has been previously, and at times negatively, referred to as ‘soft skills’ are increasingly sought after in the business world, mostly because those skills have been proven to work and boost profitability.
In fact, they say, most studies and surveys show that ‘soft skills’ are now of paramount importance for the global work environment.
A Stanford Research Institute study determined that 75% of long-term success in a job role depends on the mastery of soft skills. Whereas only 25% of that job success comes from technical skills.
The World Economic Forum (2018) report on The Future of Jobs highlights that the top skills required by employees are all ‘soft skill’ related. Top of the list are active learning, creativity, critical thinking and analysis, complex problem solving, leadership, and emotional intelligence.
Employers are now realising that ‘soft skills’ encourage motivation, performance, and communication, and should be nurtured as early as possible, says Muland and Demmer.
“The days where technical expertise (hard skills) alone could guarantee success in the workplace are gone. In the digital age, where automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are becoming increasingly prevalent, the distinction between hard and soft skills is almost obsolete. ‘Soft skills’ are hugely helpful for the younger generation to adapt, collaborate and thrive in this new world,” says Demmer.
“We take future ready skills very seriously at Centennial Schools. We work hard to foster leadership capabilities in all our pupils by balancing essential with technical skills. Our curriculum gives students exposure to the real world and teaches them to tackle challenges through experiential learning, backed by emotional intelligence (EQ),” she says.
Interestingly, a global study, conducted by consulting firm Korn Ferry, found that women outperformed men in 11 out of 12 emotional competence skills.
“Women typically excel in emotional intelligence when compared to their male peers and this leadership characteristic can strengthen employee work ethic, critical thinking skills, and collaboration for female leaders,” says Muland.
“Communication, social and emotional skills are as essential as technical skills, and together are equipping students for the new world, and more importantly, the new workplace,” she says.
She adds that Centennial Schools has added training in Adobe Suite which fosters creativity and innovation. Students learn coding which develops their natural ability to construct, hypothesise, explore, experiment, evaluate and draw conclusions. “We also have Africa’s largest eSports arena where students, regardless of gender, participate in games-based education and the option for competitive gaming. Gaming teaches critical thinking, analytical skills, problem-solving and teamwork,” she says.
“We aim to graduate the most technology advanced, well-rounded students who are geared for employability, and ultimately success,” adds Demmer.