“School-Success” Skills vs “Employability” Skills

Are we aiming to have our students “college-ready” OR “career-ready?”

OR both?

If both, do we get them “college-ready” first, then “career-ready?”

learning and soft skills

The “soft skills” that are in such hot demand from employers, are the same skills that empower students to be successful… from middle school to college!

These are many of the questions that educators seem to wrestle with on a regular basis as our country works to prepare future generations for workplace success. The correct answer is: all-of-the-above and MORE… we must prepare students to middle school-ready, high school-ready, AND college-and-career-ready.

Because the skill set for all of these domains is EXACTLY the same.

Right now, U.S. Businesses (large and small) are getting very worried for the future.  Why?  It’s not the economy.  It’s not China taking over the world. It’s not a lack of technology.

It’s the lack a high-performing workforce.

You might think, “Well, it’s a good thing that more students than ever are going to college!”  However, the problem is not about a lack of technical skills (i.e. engineering, business, medicine training).

The problem is a lack of SOFT SKILLS (i.e. problem solving, critical thinking, communication, organization, etc.).

Oakland County, MI is leading the nation with its research into what skills the future workforce will need.  Their Skills Needs Assessment surveyed 500 businesses in emerging sectors and discovered exactly what skills employers are seeking.

The assessment revealed that 91% of the top needed skills are soft skills, NOT the technical skills that we’re striving so hard for our students learn in college.  Below are the skills identified in the assessment.  Items circled in red are soft skills.

learning and soft skills

List of most “in-demand” skills from employers in growing sectors, such as healthcare, I.T., advanced manufacturing, and more.

The origin of our problem is “preparing students for college.”  College is a process of being exposed to a lot of new information.  Students learn (but, really memorize) that new information.  Then, students demonstrating proficiency of that information via a multiple-choice test.  This process produces college graduates, entering the workforce prepared only to handle multiple-choice problems.

Employers are frustrated because the problems their businesses face on a daily basis do not present themselves in the form of “multiple choice.”  Hence, conflict occurs between what employers need from employees and what employees have actually been trained to do.

The problem is further compounded at the middle and high school level.  We actively train our students to be “college-ready.” We expose students to new information.  We help them learn (memorize) that information.  Then, students demonstrate proficiency of the information via a multiple-choice tests.  If the students do well on the multiple-choice tests (i.e. ACT/SAT), and thus get accepted to college, we call that a win!

However, our students are still unable to attack real-world problems.  They are far from being “career-ready.”

Wipe the Slate Clean: Aim for a Different Direction

This solution is powerful, yet simple.  It benefits students in all subject areas, yet is relatively inexpensive.  It prepares students for success in middle school, high school, college, and careers, and can be introduced as early as 6th grade.  So, what is the solution?

Teaching strategic learning and soft skills.  It sounds too easy and simple to be so effective.  However, the opposite is the case; it’s the simplicity that makes it so effective.

Strategic learning and soft skills are concepts like: organizational skills, time-management, communication skills, critical thinking, problem solving, etc.  When we deliberately teach students these skills, students actually “learn” versus memorize information.  The end result is much higher performances on all forms of assessments.

The core of this process is teaching students to be strategic.  If students are strategic with their approach to the learning process, they are engaging higher-level thinking skills.  Meaning, they are actually thinking critically and problem solving while they are learning.

It goes something like this…  Starting in 6th grade, we teach students strategic learning and soft skills.  Students begin to think critically about their approach to learning while applying their newly learned skills in every subject.  As a result, they become confident and successful learners in middle school.  They continue to carry these skills through high school and college.  When students enter the workplace, they automatically have the soft skills that employers are seeking, because the students have been employing these skills since age 11.

The Writing Is on the Wall from Employers

Employers need employees with soft skills and “common sense.”  Long gone are the days where “book smarts” were king. Yet, the majority of our general education system is striving hard to churn out “book smart/college-ready” students.

At the end of the day, the winners are going to be the students that were trained in strategic learning and soft skills.  These are the individuals that employers will be seeking out, hiring, and paying high wages.  Employers will NOT be seeking out the individuals with the 3.8 GPA due solely to “book smarts.”

SOAR® Learning & Soft Skills Covers 95% of the Most “In-Demand” Employability Skills

SOAR addresses 95% of the skills detailed in the Skills Needs Assessment illustrated above. Skills that allow students to be successfully in school today, in their future workplace, and everywhere in between!

To learn more about how you can start teaching strategic learning and soft skills to your students, click HERE to learn about SOAR® Learning & Soft Skills.

On average, students using SOAR® Learning & Soft Skills see an increase in GPA of +1.0, a 30% reduction in missing assignments, and a 20% increase in confidence and motivation in school.

To Our Students’ Success,

Susan Kruger Signature





Susan Kruger, M.Ed.
Founder & Author of SOAR®

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