What Are “Soft Skills” And Why Are They Important?
What Are “Soft Skills”?
“Soft skills” is a term used by employers to describe the personality traits and interpersonal skills required of employees to succeed in almost any job. In recent years, they have become more and more important to a successful professional career and recently have become a popular talking point in the media, among employers and legislators.
Why Are Soft Skills Important?
In a recent BBC article (Oct 2nd, 2015), former Headmaster of Wellington College, Dr Anthony Seldon, described the importance of soft skills:
“It is not good grades, but a “grounding in soft skills” that give people who went to independent schools their edge, a former public school has argued.”
While soft skills tend to come from life experience they are something you can learn and are not always inherent. It is important to push your students to develop their social and soft skills, as that combined with their experience and knowledge can propel their career to its desired heights.
Participating in international Service Learning projects allows students to tap into these soft skills from a young age – before they enter the job market. Thereby effectively preparing them for their future careers and immediately making them stand out and more employable.
What “Soft Skills” Can Students Learn Through International Service Learning Projects?
Some of the soft skills students can expect to gain during an international Service Learning project are the following:
- Adaptability: We can’t always plan for everything. Being able to adapt to new developments and still achieve your goal is an important skill in the business world and during a Service Learning project.
- Intercultural Competence: Travelling overseas will expose students to new cultures and how people in other countries are living and what challenges they face on a day-to-day basis.
- Empathy: By partaking in Service Learning projects, students will be exposed to different cultures and people that live very different lives. This exposure creates empathy as they start to relate to other peoples problems and circumstances.
- Communication: An important skill of working in a team is being able to communicate. During a service learning project, you will need to communicate your ideas and explain your thought process when presenting a possible solution to a problem.
- Problem Solving: The ability to collect data, analyze, interpret and explain the results to solve a problem or suggest the next steps that should be taken.
- Leadership: During a Service Learning project, students will need to show leadership even if they aren’t in an authoritative position. They will need to motivate themselves and others and show that they can manage a project from beginning to end.
As someone who has been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to help educate young adults, I welcome this shift towards an education enhanced with hands-on, team-lead activities, combined with arts, sports, and other “non-traditional” subjects. I feel this will only enrich the educational experience and result in a more adaptable, resilient, and environmentally and culturally aware society.
GVI is a multi-award winning international Service Learning organisation. Find out more about our international programs and see how students from around the world are making a difference.
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