Sometimes the best tools for your career are those that you gain in addition to the technical rigors of the classroom.

Known simply as ‘soft skills’, they are key components to any career and are not technical or task-oriented. Good examples of soft skills include the following:

  • Effective communication
  • Compassion
  • Honesty
  • Trust
  • Understanding
  • Strong work ethic

And these are the skills that employers want. According to a recent NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) Job Outlook survey, communication skills and honesty/integrity are most important. In addition, the survey reported that motivation and initiative, along with strong interpersonal skills and a strong work ethic, are key attributes.

Integrating Soft Skills into Technical Career Training

Given the importance of soft skills, Oakton Community College works to develop training for students that includes ways to integrate soft skills into our curriculum. Soft skills fit into this framework in terms of a focus on skills that all individuals need to succeed, regardless of education discipline or occupation.

Employer Support for Soft Skills Training

One of the best things about offering so many career programs is our opportunity to work directly with area businesspeople to keep our curriculum relevant so it continues to meet labor market needs. Our faculty maintains relationships with local employers and listens carefully to how we can best ensure that the work skills they need are the skills we are focusing on in our classrooms, labs, and student expectations.

Although technical skills are critically important, local companies are looking for employees that contribute positively to their bottom lines; not just through their technical skills but their work ethic and attitude as well. What we’ve heard is that employers highly value the soft skills and are actively looking to hire people who exhibit those behaviors, including during the application and interview process.

An employee with a great attitude toward work and willingness may have more opportunities to be utilized and cross-trained in other facets of the business. Good soft skills set an employee up for success. They become a valuable resource for the company. When an employee demonstrates well established soft skills, the work is more enjoyable to them and their coworkers, work stress becomes less, and problems become achievable daily challenges.

It’s widely known that people often lose jobs not because of lack of technical skills but because of many other factors, including lack of responsibility, poor time management skills, no tact, weak communication skills, lack of motivation, lack of work ethic and unethical behavior. Students looking to excel today in business can set themselves apart by not only being highly adept technically, but having interpersonal skills that employers desperately need to succeed in today’s economy.