Soft Skills for All Ages

This display (courtesy Ms. Brownrigg’s third grade class) compliments nicely with the BILT “soft skills” list and might work just as well in a community college IT classroom.

This display (courtesy Ms. Brownrigg’s third grade class) compliments nicely with the BILT “soft skills” list and might work just as well in a community college IT classroom.

In 2014, the National Convergence Technology Center’s (CTC) “BILT” (Business and Industry Leadership Team – an engaged and dedicated group of IT industry experts that meets once a quarter to discuss IT trends, answer faculty questions, and validate entry-level job skills) recommended that IT programs weave “soft skills” training into IT every course. A year later, in 2015, the BILT took that request one step farther by providing specific traits and habits they’d like to see in entry-level workers.  That list has continued to be refined and updated every year.  This past summer, the BILT suggested that these soft skills be pointed out in the course syllabus so students better understand the importance of the skills and how the curriculum will be strengthening them.

It often seems every BILT member has a story of some entry-level employee whose technical skills were strong, but whose “soft skills” were lacking. Those employees don’t often last long in the office.  Technical proficiency can be taught, but it’s a far greater challenge to strengthen an employee’s interpersonal skills and professionalism.  This is why the BILT urges students receive this training early and often in the classroom.

Here’s the current BILT-approved list of “soft skills”:

  • Adaptability
  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking (including problem-solving, decision-making, information gathering)
  • Customer service
  • Intellectual risk taking
  • Leadership
  • Numerical and arithmetic application
  • Oral and written communication (including presentation skills and technical writing proficiency)
  • Professionalism and integrity (including attention to detail, organization)
  • Stress management
  • Teamwork and collaboration (including conflict management, an appreciation of diversity, following directions)
  • Technology and tool usage
  • Thoughtful reflection
  • Time management and multi-tasking (including resource allocation)
  • Willingness to continue learning
  • Work ethic (including initiative, dedication, perseverance, pride in work)

A recent visit to an elementary school classroom in a suburb just north of CTC headquarters at Collin College demonstrates that the emphasis on teaching students “soft skills” is no longer restricted to community colleges (see photo).

Consider the “questions”…

  • Are you an active listener? You listen to and respect different points of view. Others offer you constructive feedback and you don’t get upset or defensive.
  • Are you a communicator? You express your thoughts and ideas clearly and directly, with respect for others.
  • Are you committed? You are responsible and dedicated – you always give your best effort.
  • Are you cooperative? You work with other members of the team to accomplish the job – no matter what.
  • Are you flexible? You adapt easily when the team changes direction or you’re asked to try something new.
  • Are you a problem solver? You focus on solutions.
  • Are you reliable? You can be counted on to get the job done.
  • Are you respectful? You treat others with courtesy and consideration – all of the time.
  • Do you participate? You’re prepared and get involved in team activities. You are a regular contributor.
  • Do you share openly? You are willing to share information, experience, and knowledge with the group.
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