Top 5 Reasons to Develop Soft Skills in your Students

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Soft Skills. Everyone has heard of them...

but many people can’t define them. They are called durable skills, professional skills, life skills, enduring skills, career readiness skills and a host of other names. Without a clear framework to help us understand soft skills, we can’t strategically teach and assess them. The BESSI Research Group did an exhaustive crosswalk of the many frameworks we use to describe these essential skills, and they determined that everyone is referring to 32 discrete skills in five areas: social engagement, cooperation, innovation, self-management and emotional resilience. Developing soft skills in students and your teachers has a great return on investment and leads to academic, personal and professional success.

When we don’t focus on soft skills, we don’t get our students future ready. Below are the top five reasons you should start thinking about prioritizing soft skill development in your school or organization.

1. Soft Skills Improve Academic Outcomes

Schools tend to look at new curriculum, design improved MTSS models and implement intervention programs to address academic gaps, but if you aren’t looking at soft skills development, you are missing a key ingredient. The Society for Research in Child Development notes that soft skill training for your students can increase GPA and academic performance by 11%. The Global Labor Organization found that student soft skill training increases graduation rates by 30% and increases math testing scores in boys by 7.5% and in girls by 10.7%. Soft skills training also increases assignment completion and performance by 9.3%. Including soft skills training in your Tier 1 MTSS plan is a no-brainer!

2. Teacher Soft Skills Impact Student Outcomes

Nearly ¾ of employers say they cannot find employees with sufficient soft skills and the education sector is no different (SHRM). Stanford Research Center, Harvard University, and Carnegie Foundation report that only 15% of our success comes from academic and technical training. The other 85% is due to our soft skills. Because teacher preparation programs do not focus on soft skill development, our teachers do not necessarily have the skills they need to collaborate, implement curriculum or build relationships with students and this skills gap impacts your students’ outcomes. The National Bureau of Economic Research reports that teacher soft skills directly impact student dropout rates and graduation rates. It also found teacher soft skill ability directly explains the variance in student absences, suspensions and GPA.

3. Soft Skills Lead to Happier Lives

The BESSI Research group reports that soft skills account for nearly 2/3 of our general life happiness. Stress regulation, social warmth, teamwork, anger management, time management and other critical soft skills help us feel more in control of our life and allow us to manage our relationships, responsibilities and emotions. They can even impact our health! The University of Chicago found that student soft skills predict health problems in adulthood, even after accounting for social class origins and IQ, and soft skills are a better predictor of financial success and achievement of advanced credentials than social class or IQ.

4. Students can't be Future Ready Without Soft Skills

Soft skills are necessary in the workforce. LinkedIn’s Global Talent Report reveals that 89% of recruiters say soft skills are the culprit for a bad hire. Fortune 500 CEOs report that 75% of long-term job success depends on soft skills, while only 25% on technical knowledge. To be ready for their futures, students need soft skills, and they won’t learn them unless we have a strategic way of teaching and assessing them. Wonderlic says 97% of employers say soft skills are essential, but Career Education Review cites that only 37% of employers believe their entry-level employees have the necessary soft skills to be successful.

5. Teachers don't know how to teach soft skills!

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Teachers report they do not have time and do not have the training they need to teach soft skills. If schools are going to truly prepare students for their futures, they need to train their teachers on soft skills and generate a culture where these skills are valued, reinforced, modeled and assessed. SHRM reports that 51% of employers believe the education system hasn’t helped close the soft skill gap. Schools need to have a common understanding of soft skills and use shared vocabulary and measurements to assess soft skill development.

Kelvin, Murray and Company report only 20% of employees feel comfortable talking about soft skills in their performance reviews. Schools can help teachers and students learn soft skills together and build a culture where these skills are prioritized. The University of Chicago reports that soft skills are a 169% stronger predictor of academic achievement than IQ score, so creating a soft skills culture has a great return on investment, improves school climate and increases student achievement.

Interested in learning more about how you can make your students FUTURE READY?

JAKAPA has a solution to your soft skills programming and it is easy to implement. By setting aside 10-15 minutes daily in an advisory period or as part of a career development class, schools can engage students in daily habit development and soft skills practice. Teachers can use data to differentiate and intervene with students. For more information about how to tackle the soft skills gaps, contact JAKAPA.

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