Balancing Soft Skills and Technical Skills
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) around 19.7 million students were enrolled in American colleges and universities in fall 2020 (resource link). As the number of students and the cost of college continue to increase, students need to find jobs where they can see a return on investment. However, too many new graduates are lacking in the skill sets needed for today’s job market, resulting in lower salaries and specific markets with unfilled positions.
I challenge us to ask ourselves, can we create a better connection between future job market needs and setting students up with the skills and knowledge needed to be successful? Is there a correct balance between soft skills and technical skills?
Student Success Centers
The answer is yes. In other words, we need to provide a solid general education for students, as well as teach specific skills relevant to post-education careers. Recently there have been major advances within higher education institutions with the launch of student success centers. These programs, like at Fox Valley Technical College, explore new ways to approach and facilitate student success throughout their college career and beyond.
We have to give students the direction and tools they need to succeed in the future job market. One big way we can approach this is through curriculum, instruction and advisement that provides a mix of knowledge and skills.
Project Lead the Way
A K-12 program championing this effort is Project Lead the Way (PLTW). Their curriculum sets students up with skills regardless of their pursuit in a technically-focused field like science, technology, engineering or manufacturing. PLTW builds a strong foundation for innovation and problem solving while also balancing the soft skills needed to succeed.
Let’s keep this conversation going -- What are other ways we can place a greater emphasis on understanding future workforce needs and training students around these needs?