The popular conception of the skills gap – the lack of industry-specific skills that many job candidates have today – often refers to technical proficiencies. High-tech manufacturing concerns, information technology service providers, health care providers – they all are faced with a lack of people qualified to perform the jobs available right now.
But especially for many candidates new to the job market there is another set of skills for which they come up short as well. They are known as soft skills.
Local colleges and universities are recognizing that while their graduates may be high academic achievers, they may not be able to master small talk at a business luncheon, among other things. And so many of them are taking the time to bring their soon-to-be graduates up to the level necessary in order to thrive in the informal business environment.
Roger Williams and Salve Regina universities as well as Providence College all hold dining-etiquette programs that help students understand how to engage in small talk that then can lead to the creation of a personal professional network.
In a recent survey recruiters cited listening ability, persuasiveness and tact as desirable qualities in job candidates. Many view verbal communication skills as the most important attribute a candidate can possess, with technical skills well down the list. In fact, some view the term “soft skills” as misleading, since many of these skills are just as important to a person’s professional success as their ability to navigate a spreadsheet.
The takeaway: higher education institutions’ efforts to better prepare its graduates for the practical aspects of the workplace are a welcome development, if long overdue. •