What’s Higher Education’s Role in Teaching Soft Skills?

What’s Higher Education’s Role in Teaching Soft Skills?

To what extent will artificial intelligence (AI) replace human workers? 

That’s the big question many are asking as more companies integrate AI into their operations. I certainly don’t have the answer, but I can say one thing with confidence: 

Even if (or when) robots take over tasks historically assigned to people, they won’t replace the soft skills that are uniquely human. These skills include a person’s ability to communicate clearly, think critically, work well with others, and manage their time effectively.

Most of today’s organizations are ecosystems of people and teams who work interdependently rather than independently to get just about anything done. And while business leaders acknowledge that soft skills are integral to a thriving interdependent work environment, soft skill training remains a missed opportunity.

To put it more bluntly: A 2016 Wonderlic study revealed that 93% of employers view soft skills as “very important” or essential.” And yet only 31% of employers offer soft skill training to employees. 

Which brings me to a question I’m better equipped to answer: Does higher education have a role in closing the soft skill training gap?

Meeting the Moment: Schools Can Provide Soft Skills Training 

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Soft skill training is hard, which is likely why many companies don’t offer it. I’ve always believed humans are more alike than we are different. But our soft skill journeys are unique—and that can complicate efforts to train soft skills at scale. 

But higher education is accustomed to meeting people’s needs socially, materially, and academically. If anyone can figure out how to teach soft skills, it’s a college or university. 

A quick tip is to avoid the instinct to overcommit with highly customized soft skill training content, which can be expensive and difficult to scale. Instead, prioritize developing “off the shelf” content frameworks that companies can begin implementing immediately. 

Of course, given the complex nature of soft skills, you should anticipate some need for customization. That could involve anything from personalizing the content to developing custom partnerships with individual companies that have already hired coaches to do some of the initial legwork. Perhaps you create a hybrid model leveraging the coaches’ support in certain situations.

These are just a few examples of soft skill training considerations. If you’ve got any ideas of your own, I’d love to hear from you!

Reframing the Future of Work 

While AI is undoubtedly reshaping the future of work, we’re still a long way from a Black Mirror-esque future in which companies replace all their workers with robots. Soft skills (or, as I like to call them, human skills) still matter. And higher education can play an important role in helping businesses and workers unlock the full potential of these capabilities. 

If you’d like to discuss strategies for marketing and selling soft skill training packages to corporations, let’s connect.