The skills gap is a well-documented issue that employers cite about recent graduating classes, but the skills gap isn’t solely an issue of either a lack of hard skills or soft skills alone. In order for graduates to have the best chances of securing employment after graduation, they need a combination of both. “More jobs will require recent college graduates to more fully merge their training in hard skills with soft skills,” according to The Future of Work 2017 by The Chronicle of Higher Education. In order for this merging to occur, career services professionals must work to ensure that both career-related soft skills are being integrated into the academic curriculum and that academic hard skills are being considered by career counselors.
Collaborate With Students’ Academic Advisors
One of the simplest ways to ensure that soft skills are being integrated into students’ classes, and that in turn, your career services team understands any hard skills gap students may face due to their class selections is to communicate regularly with students’ academic advisors. When you remain in constant contact with a student’s academic advisor, you can exchange with each other critical knowledge about the soft and hard skill areas in which a student needs the most improvement.
As a member of the career services team, make sure you ask a student’s academic advisor which classes they’ve taken, which classes they plan to take in the future, and which classes the student struggles in the most. Then, you can create a plan with both the academic advisor and the student to ensure that the student is doing everything possible to develop the refined hard skills needed for their desired field. Likewise, a student’s academic advisor can relay input to you about which soft skills they suspect the student’s curriculum may not be helping the student develop, such as writing skills or public speaking skills.
Communicate to Upper-Level Leadership the Need for Required Soft Skill Classes
In addition to classes required for a student’s major, all students should be required to take core classes that cover employability-related topics such as networking, resume building, etc. If this is not currently the case at your institution, get together with the rest of your career services team and set up a meeting with upper-level management to explain why these types of soft skill classes are necessary.
You might be met with red tape at first, but don’t give up – if you are able to present the evidence that graduating students are suffering from a lack of soft skills (and there is plenty of evidence), you may be able to effectively convince upper-level management to add these skills to students’ required core courses.
The skills gap is a major complaint from employers regarding recent grads, and it’s unfortunate to think that many students struggle to find jobs after graduation because they are lacking a combination of hard and soft skills. Communicating closely with students’ academic advisors and stressing to senior leadership the importance of integrating soft skills into students’ required curriculum are two ideas to combat this concern.