Daily Archives: December 6, 2012

Stronger Emphasis on ‘Soft Skils’

I’m serving on a Commission on the future for our very fine local community college, and I was at a meeting with business people and community college faculty, staff, and administrators.  In his closing remarks, the business man who is chairing the Commission reiterated what the various groups were saying about the needs of college graduates.

He said that the college needed to pay attention to ensuring that more students are preparing themselves in the STEM majors, but that they also needed to be prepared with what are sometimes called “soft skills.” Expecting to hear reasons why there is not more emphasis on those skills that student affairs works to encourage students to acquire, this very wise man made the following statement:

Soft skills may not get college credit, and they might not be accredited by the people who evaluate college courses, but we need to say, ‘The hell with that!’ We need to do what we know is right for students because it’s about learning and getting the skills students need to be successful.

If I had been in church, I would have said, “AMEN!” In my speeches and presentations, I’m focusing on what skills our graduates and alumni need in order to be prepared both for careers that currently exist and those that do not yet exist, and some of these skills are those skills called “soft skills.”

When I talk with employers, they say that college cannot prepare students for the specifics for most jobs, but they can give students the foundation that will be used in learning how to learn the specifics of the job. What students do not always have is the foundation that enables them to be excellent communicators across cultures. The employers are saying they need managers, and without the intercultural communication skills, our students will not be equipped.

These skills can be learned if student affairs will collaborate with faculty in offering what I call cocurriculum laboratories.

I will write about these in subsequent blogs and will respond to any questions or comments.