‘Soft skills’? I think they’re HARD skills.”
“They’re hard to learn.”
“They’re hard because they’re probably the most important skills.”
Both moderator Tacy Trowbridge, and panelist Michael Hernandez, were talking about Cultivating Creativity: Tomorrow’s Top Skill at SXSWedu recently. And they’re not the only ones talking about the importance of soft skills. Everyone from the Economist to Bloomberg to LinkedIn have developed similar lists of in-demand soft skills. The specific skills listed vary somewhat but generally include creativity, communication, and collaboration as well as other items.
And while they suggest these skills are more critical to job success than the so-called “hard skills,” they also point out how students often show up to the workplace lacking these skills — because they rarely receive any training in their importance and use in any formal classes.
To be sure, there are plenty of courses out there, especially online courses, that offer the opportunity to learn and practice some of these skills. But rarely are they compiled into a curriculum that can help an individual or group learn about these skills, practice them in an instructive manner in a safe setting, and receive coaching and feedback to hone these skills.
No wonder they’re hard to learn.
In response, IBM developed a Workplace Learning Curriculum to guide development of these skill sets for high school student interns in their P-TECH program. It is extensive and thorough, as befits a 300-page curriculum developed by a team of 30 designed for use with weekly classes. Within their framework, they identify what they call “essential professional skills”: collaboration, communication, analytical thinking, self-management, motivation, curiosity, and leadership & responsibility.
Our internship program at FEDC TechSTART here in Cañon City is much smaller than IBM, , including P-TECH tracks still to be implemented, and we do not have a team of 30 to develop curriculum. As great as the IBM curriculum is, it also would not work for our purposes as it depends on larger group interactions. Thankfully, we can borrow from and model our own custom curriculum on some of their materials while tailoring the materials and learning experience to our situation.
Combining the IBM essential professional skills with the 5 top in-demand soft skills for 2019 from LinkedIn, we derived the following skills we will focus on:
I like calling them superpowers more than soft skills. But more than simple superhero-type super-powers— basically unobtainable by most people — these are “everyday superpowers” that are, in fact, achievable by us all. They often get neglected as we go about our daily tasks, and yet we can all call on these 5 skills like superpowers to help us along in our everyday lives as needed.
So, I am currently working on (or tinkering on, as I prefer to say) a short curriculum to wrap-around their technical skills training for our interns to learn and practice these everyday superpowers. To enhance the experience of these skills acting as superpowers, the curriculum will build in game-like elements a la Jane McGonigal’s gameful design principles.
This will include the use of an icon or badge for each of the superpowers, with differing levels according to specific tasks (called quests) completed. And while the specifics of challenges and quests and scoring have yet to be worked out, we have a set of icons to represent our P-TECH Superpowers.
Stay tuned for more to be developed later. You, too, will get a chance to exercise your everyday superpowers.