Soft Skills and the Employ ability Factor
While technical skills are very important for success in business, there are other nontechnical skills (soft skills) which hold equal importance in the employability factor of an individual. A number of surveys have been made worldwide to identify the broad requirements in terms of attributes and skills, which are common to all types of job profiles. This article attempts to identify such skill sets that influence employability.
“Soft skills are hard requirements”, “Soft skills help avoid the hard knocks”, are all too familiar phrases in the work environment these days. Soft skills are considered to be very important for success in business today, especially when interaction and communication are at a premium. Of late, the development and possession of soft skills was also being seen as the potential for employability of an individual. Obviously, the content and theme of employability are changing. Creating lifelong employment capabilities in individuals is a role found to be played by the development and enhancement of soft skills so much so that the terms are being used interchangeably. Nowadays, soft skill is not only used to skills required by individuals to enter the workplace but also to sustain oneself in the workplace.
What Does Employability Mean?
The term employability has multiple definitions; however common to these definitions is the consent that there is much more required to build a capacity for employment than a simple set of technical skills.
In order to understand this, we examine some of the ways in which employability has been defined. The University of Newcastle has defined employability as a capacity to move selfsufficiently into and within the labor market, to fulfill one’s potential through sustainable employment, so imposing the responsibility of depending on oneself to move into and forward on the individual.
What are Skills?
A clear understanding of the concept of skills is needed before to move to employability skills. A skill can be thought of as an ability, which may be inherent or acquired, and which can be performed repeatedly. Skills can be assessed or verified only through performance. However they differ very little from knowledge and understanding. We usually say that we measure the breadth of knowledge, the depth of understanding and the ability in assessing a skill. In other words, how broad is one’s knowledge, how deep is the understanding and how able is one in performing a skill.
Although employability skills are embedded in most courses throughout life, students often fail to relate them to the employment context. These employability skills are holistic in the sense that they are related not only to secure work but also contribute to the work once acquired and assist in the development within a career throughout the career span of an individual. Hence, it is important to relate to these skills developed beyond the context of education and look forward to utilize them during the career span.
The Change in the Nature of Employability Skills
The 1980s saw an increase in interest in skills, which learned in one context could be fairly and readily transferred to another context. This concept was captured and defined by Bridges in 1993 as the generic capabilities, which allowed people to succeed in a wide range of different tasks and jobs (Bridges, 1993, p. 43). These transferable set of capabilities they said were highly required, independent of the context. This also marked the change in the nature of capabilities required for employment from mere possession of hard skills to a wide range of generic skills.
Two studies, one by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD)
(Carnevale et al., 1990, p. 38) and one by the Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS, 1991) have been the foundational works in identifying employability skills, often used as benchmarks or beginning points for other international, national, state, regional, and local studies.
Although there seems to be no common definition for the term “soft skills”, there seems to be a general agreement that they are related to people oriented skills and self-management skills. And that the same skills are also important in improving the productivity of workforce and increasingly linked to the employability of individuals. Altogether, the message seems to be that soft skills require a hard look and no one can ignore them as a fanciful idea. There seems to be no alternative but to give soft skills the importance they deserve. Technical abilities can help one step get a job but after that soft skills in the form of employable skills take over. For life. thus, if one wants “employability for life”, then there seems to be no shortcut but to continuously developing and enhancing ones soft skills.
Bridges D (1993), Transferable Skills: A Philosophical Perspective, Studies in Higher Education,
18, (1), pp. 43-51
Carnevale A P, Gainer L J and Meltzer A S (1990), Workplace Basics: The Essential Skills
Employers Want, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass