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The Madera Tribune

Need for soft skills in a hard-skill world

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webmaster | 09/28/12

One of the things we keep hearing is how there are jobs waiting to be filled in this supposedly jobless economy, but they go begging because of a lack of qualified people to hold them.

The first thoughts that float into one’s mind on hearing that are: “Not enough math majors, not enough engineering majors, not enough physicists, not enough accountants.”

That may be true to a certain extent. Those are all “hard” skills, as opposed to the “soft” skills, such as English, history, political science. You hardly ever see a job opening for English majors, or history majors or political science majors.

That doesn’t mean anything is wrong with majoring in those less technical subjects. Rather, in a tough economy, those jobs tend to lie low, while the hard-skill jobs are out there looking for the appropriately skilled.

However, some soft skills may be more important than it appears on the surface. Nick Schulz, writing in The Wall Street Journal, says certain soft skills are vital as far as employers are concerned. These include: the ability to write a coherent letter, to use correct grammar when speaking, the ability to understand basic math, the ability to interact well with customers, the ability to show up for work on time, the inclination to wear clean and neat clothes, the inclination to be well groomed and the inclination to use good manners.

Julie Adamen of Poulsbo, Wash., who operates an employment service, writes to the Journal that these soft skills are becoming rarer as the products of modern schooling and parenting enter the work force. Parents and teachers, she says, seem to be letting many kids get away with sloppy behavior both in class and in society, and when they enter the work force, they are “incapable of understanding or caring what it takes to obtain and maintain a job.”

She says this also makes them ignorant voters who may not understand what it means to be a responsible citizen of this large and complex republic.

There are exceptions, of course. We see them all the time. But their opposites are growing in number.


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