Sunday, March 9, 2008

Why are 'soft skills' so hard?

Our ‘Soft Skills’, such as:

- how we communicate,
- how we work with others,
- how we problem solve,
- how we use initiative and entrepreneurialship,
- how plan, organise and manage ourselves, as well
- how we learn

are very important in order for us to effectively contribute to society.

In the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector in Australia, these ‘non-technical’ skills have been referred to as ‘key competencies'.

However, since the early part of this century, they have been tagged “Employability Skills” (ES), as a result of the Business Council of Australia (BCA) and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) expressed that ‘key competencies’ in Training Packages ‘needed to be revised and expanded to reflect the changing world of work and broader range of skills which employers currently required’(1)

Since then Industry Advisory Groups have been working to explicitly ‘embed’ ES into all new and revised Training Packages, and a lot of research, work and professional development has gone into how VET practitioners ‘assess ES’.

But why has the ‘emphasis’ been on providing Professional Development on how to ASSESS ES?

Surely assessing ES is the easy part – it is relatively easy to determine whether a person is good at communicating their ideas or works with others?

For me, the hard part is about how to develop ES in an individual.

If it is so easy to teach ES skills, along side technical skills, why has VET been avoiding them for years?

And why is it so hard to teach ES? Are these the skills which we should be learning as part of our ‘community’ learning – ie from our parents, relatives, and neighbours? Or is it that ES are more innate or intuitive than a learnt skill?

What this has highlighted for me is there is a real gap in how to teach ES.

So now I’m very keen to learn from others about any training techniques teach ES alongside technical skills. Can you help?

(1) Employability Skills, From Framework to Practice, an Introducton Guide for Trainers and Assessors, Precision Consultancy, 2006


T'lia said...

Hi Allison,

We have found that our electrical apprentices have developed these skills more because they've had to do my online training for TAFE (this is QLD).

Do you think that changing the way we teach the other things they need to know can develop those skills in them?

theother66 (formally MadMiller) said...

Yes Talia, there needs to be a 'shift' in the way we offer training/learning.

We need students to know how to learn, and take responsibility for their learning.

This is a paradigm shift for trainers and learners. However, this shift in training/learning will require a lot of training/re-training for trainers.