Why Employability and Soft Skills are Essential for Students Today

Why Employability and Soft Skills are Essential for Students Today

A strong economy relies on a skilled workforce equipped with the necessary knowledge and competencies. The skills gap today is real. Employers are currently looking for candidates who possess essential employability and soft skills required to be effective in the workplace. They seek employees with a level of professionalism, effective communication, decision-making skills, self-awareness, and the ability to work with a team. But many students aren’t prepared for the workforce. Employers feel that students from the Gen Z generation lack the skills they require.

While students today are quite passionate about what takes place in the world around them, they are also faced with challenges far different than what most of us experienced as teenagers. For starters, their whole life can be captured on video and sent out with negative impacts. When they struggle to figure out who they are, who their friends are, and what they plan to do in life, they are confronted with a variety of challenges that make it difficult to progress forward.

Attached to their phones

These days, popularity is often less about what they look like or what they can do and more about how many likes or followers they get on TikTok or Instagram. They spend so much time trying to take the perfect picture or video that they fail to see what the world has to offer. Because they can get so caught up in this scenario, they rarely venture outside to get fresh air. Parents sadly watch their kids miss out on childhood experiences they so cherished.

Caught in the moment instead of looking towards the future

Concentrating on their studies or developing new skills can also be interrupted by worry. They can spend hours concerned about what others may say or “post” about them or making sure they are looped in on what everyone is talking about. This means they will often avoid hanging out with their family, going to work, studying, or managing other responsibilities. They may show up late to class or work as they get distracted by their phones and often appear like zombies when you ask them what happened. Helping students find motivation and set goals and dreams for their future is important.

Learning to dress for success

Before students step into a service-learning opportunity, it’s important they understand that the way they dress around their friends or in school is not always acceptable in the workplace. Whether it’s holes in their jeans or revealing tops, most companies will not allow this, along with coming in barefoot.

Lack of effective communication skills

And while they are quite gifted at communicating over text and multitasking, there isn’t a lot of verbal communication that often takes place. It’s common to see a group of teenagers get together for the day and text each other in a room in silence. And often, they will text something they’d never say in person because it is easier to hide behind the screen. In doing so, they haven’t learned appropriate communication skills, empathy, or proper verbal conversations, which are critical before they enter the workforce.

Insufficient practical experiences

Students may also lack experiences that give them opportunities to develop problem-solving skills. The days of riding bikes freely alone, running through fields, forests, or parks, or staying out late now come with new dangers many of us did not have to face as children. Parents are fearful of allowing their kids to go out alone or to places once seen as “safe.” Not only is this sad for parents, but it also comes with consequences. Students don’t have to figure things out for themselves like previous generations.

And now they are faced with COVID

On top of the challenges they already face day-to-day with COVID-19, students are now more isolated than ever. This affects their engagement levels and their ability to learn and develop the critical skills they need for their future.

Stay passionate about life

If we are ever going to help students find happiness and success in life, we need to engage them in areas of interest and offer career exploration so they are motivated to branch out and discover more. It is critical we give them opportunities to see beyond school so they can tie their passions to rewarding careers and gain the essential employability and soft skills they’ll need to thrive. Service hours, internships, and apprenticeship opportunities are now available to students giving them the ability to try out career fields and practice and apply their skills.

The funding is there

Luckily, the funding is available to help schools support students with career exploration and Career Tech Education (CTE) through Perkins V. And, recently, this federal funding budget increased $18 million for FY 2021 or 1.4% increase over the FY 2020 enacted level, bringing the proposed total to more than $1.3 billion.

These employability and soft skills are essential for our students, but our economy depends on it, and we’re excited to help be part of the solution.

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