Soft skills are the skills pertaining to your personality, attitude and behaviour. These relate to ‘how you speak’ not ‘what you speak’.
These constitute several skills such as communication skills, leadership skills, team building skills, time management skills, interpersonal skills and presentation skills to name a few.
These skills are also referred in different names such as interpersonal skills, people skills, emotional intelligence and life skills.
These skills are much sought after by the employers for better productivity and performance.
As a result, these are also known as employability skills. However, students passing out of educational institutions don’t possess these skills. On the other hand, they are good at hard skills which are related to technical knowledge and competency. These hard skills are also known as core skills and domain skills.
Significance of soft skills In these days of growing specialisation where knowledge workers are leading from the front, soft skills promote specialised areas of knowledge leading to new domains. At the personal front, these build self-esteem and self-confidence among the individuals. These ensure both personal and professional advancement for the individuals. At the professional front, these create lot of opportunities both for the employees and employers. Handling difficult people becomes easier with these skills in organisations. Handling and negotiating with clients promotes business opportunities for the employers. Companies can outsmart their rivals. For students, these skills enable employment opportunities as the recruiters look for plug and play recruits.
What are employability skills? All businesses cry for soft skills as these enable their growth and competitiveness. These skills are essential for all employers cutting across all industries. These are the additional skills apart from the core skills and hard skills. Besides, Indian youth began realising that without these employable skills it is difficult to grab jobs.
The need for employability skills differ from one country to another. For instance, American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) identified six categories of skills which are important to employability. They are; basic competency, communication, adaptability, developmental activities, group effectiveness and influencing others. In Malaysia, these are positive values, leadership skills, teamwork force, communicative skills and life-long learning.
Bridging both Art and Craft A solid blend of both soft and hard skills is necessary for becoming a successful corporate professional. Currently educational institutions in India only provide knowledge (art) but not the skills (craft) and attitude demanded by the employers. Below are a few suggestions to bridge the gap between both the art and craft for enhancing employability in Indian youth.
• It is essential to include soft skills training programs in every educational institution. • Students should pursue other non-academic courses along with academic activities to have competitive and employable edge. • Involve students in the classroom to replicate what they might do in the workplace. • Both industry and campus should empathise the limitations of others and work with cooperation for grooming students for employability.
• Training and Placement Officer (TPO) of an educational institution plays a crucial role both within the institution in bringing cooperation between faculty and students as well as outside the institution with the industry in bringing coordination between both the campus and the industry.
• There is need for creative tools and techniques based on experiential learning i.e. learning by doing as it makes the students to appreciate and understand well and also it bridges the gap between art and craft. • Once in a while encourage industry experts to visit educational institutions to bring awareness among the students. It is also necessary to adopt team teaching where in both the faculty member from the educational institution and an experienced professional from industry could undertake teaching simultaneously in the classrooms. It helps in aligning the theoretical concepts with the practical aspects effectively resulting into reinforcing the content in the minds of the students.
• Encourage role plays, Just a Minute (JAM) sessions, dramatising, Socratic Method of teaching, blended learning, game based activities and informal training in the classrooms to hone soft skills among the students. Give them immediate feedback for effective results.
• The students who are academically strong often think ‘we know everything’ due to their strong egos resulting into poor performance during employment interview. They have to get out of such hangover. • Coordination among stakeholders such as faculty, students, industry and directors of educational institutions is essential. • Above all, there is a strong need for institute-industry interface for enhancing employability skills among the Indian youth.
Globalisation has ushered in new employment opportunities as well as several challenges for the businesses globally. This is the climate of economic challenges and changes arising out of rapid globalisation where there is need for both soft and hard skills. Students should realise that acquiring qualification is only a comma not a full stop. They should appreciate and accept the fact that acquiring hard skills is only a comma while possessing soft skills is a full stop.