Soft Skills Pay The Bills

I was wondering why college graduates have a hard time finding a job. We have the degree, so what’s the issue? According to my studies, it’s not our knowledge that’s the problem, it’s our ignorance. According to USA today, our youngest professionals are underemployed, under paid and potentially facing a life time of financial set-backs. Along those same lines, Slate, an online magazine, provides information writing the Economic Policy Institute or the EPI believes there is an almost 17% rate of college graduates who are “underemployed,” meaning they’re either jobless or working part-time because they can’t find or land a full-time job, dream job or a better job than the one they have settled for. Time Magazine suggest this lack and underemployment goes way beyond lack of STEM skills or hard skills. College graduates often become experts in their fields of study ranging from business, software, programs they are proficient in and more tangible material. According to Peggy Klaus, a consultant, soft skills are not necessarily undervalued, but people definitely don’t pay enough attention to them and unfortunately, agreeing to Wall Street Journal, more companies are after soft skills, the intangible material, such as leadership and time management. A survey by the Workforce Solutions Group at St. Louis Community College finds that more than 60% of employers say applicants lack “communication and interpersonal skills,” which translates to soft skills. Along those same lines, another employer survey, this one by staffing company Adecco, turns up similar results. The company says in a statement, “44% of respondents cited soft skills, such as communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration, as the area with the biggest gap.”

Not surprisingly, soft skills are not overlooked as much and if you don’t know these simple skills, you may not appeal to your interviewer or your boss will soon be concerned with your organizational and interpersonal proficiency. According to the New York Times, until recently, soft skills were undervalued in corporate America. Everyone thought going to the right schools was what would make you successful, but in reality the absence of these skills can hurt you on the job or prevent you from getting the job you want.

I wasn’t necessarily looking for the answer to the problem, more so what experiment would agree soft skills are the solution. I found there is one policy formed by The Department of Labor’s Office of ODEP or Office Disability Employment Policy titled “Skills to Pay the Bills: Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success.” This is a curriculum developed by ODEP focused on teaching “soft” or workforce readiness skills to youth, especially youth with disabilities. The curriculum will aim to teach and ensure 6 soft skills, 1) communication, to help participants practice and recognize how they provide and receive information to and from others, 2) enthusiasm and attitude, to teach students of the importance of enthusiasm, a positive attitude in the workplace and how to turn negative thinking into positive thinking, 3) teamwork, to teach participants about the importance of teamwork and the specific role each individual on a team can impact others, 4) networking, which will explain the process of and its relevance to career development, as well as potential guidelines to consider when using social networks, texting, and emailing, 5) problem solving  and critical thinking, which will help students learn how to solve problems in a variety of ways, learn how to properly tell the difference among criticism, praise, feedback and reacting appropriately and learn strategies for making ethical decisions and lastly 6) professionalism, which will coach students on how to blend and integrate the top 5 soft skills. The basic structure of the program is comprised of modular, hands-on, engaging activities.

However, there are some barriers to this policy. Roderick Nunn, vice chancellor for economic development and workforce solutions at St. Louis Community College suggest along with Time Magazine that it is a great challenge correcting a lifetime of bad habits in a short period of time. Also, the hiring pool will get more competitive because so many more individuals will be well qualified. If there are a large number of well-qualified applicants, University of California Santa Cruz, Staff Human Services suggest employers may “screen out” candidates based on small qualification differences. Brief phone interviews may become more popular, thus may cause frustration and pressure for the candidates who are trying to pitch themselves in a small amount of time and especially for those indivuals who count on their first impression and firm handshakes. Along those same lines, according to Career Rocketeer it may all boil down to your personality. Are you the more likeable candidate? Will your personality triumph the other candidate’s talent? Lastly, cost is always a factor, but individual development of this course for each college grad could definitely outweigh the cost and cover the world with millions of well-rounded students. On the upside, the benefits of enforcing this policy could get rid of the companies challenges to find well qualified college graduates and studied show about half of college grads say they’re prepared for the workplace while the number of bosses who think they’re prepared is lower than 40%.

In conclusion, to what extent is this policy’s validity and reliability? Could enacting and enforcing The Department of Labor’s Office of ODEP policy create more team players and problem solvers? It seems logical. Companies should definitely have less trouble finding well qualified, motivated, punctual and flexible candidates but what could this do to our future, economy, expectations? What impact could enforcing this kind of policy have on today’s society? Sure potential applicants will be able to communicate effectively, improve time manageability, reach and self-promote goals that could win them that promotion or pay raise, development leadership skills essentially to well living, ripen their presentation skills and become overall more well-rounded individuals, but the big question is, is the world ready for this rapid change or will the workforce become a bloody war?




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