The value of soft skills is undeniable. It’s time Canada realizes that. Overlooked and overshadowed, Canada’s fixation on hard skills training has turned soft skills into an afterthought. This is a problem and is leading to what many are calling a Soft Skills Deficit. I couldn’t agree more.
Although our initial emphasis on hard skills training has led to immediate job opportunities, as we look to the future we need to plan accordingly, and we must develop the skills that make us employable no matter what the future holds. These are human soft skills, the kind of skills that AI and automation can’t as easily mimic. The reality is that automation and AI are replacing many hard-skill-driven jobs, leaving those who relied on their technical abilities struggling to find work in a world desperate for soft skills.
Companies are already paying the cost of poor soft skills in the workplace. With a recent study showing that poor communication can cost a small company up to $420,000 a year, the value of hiring people with strong soft skills is rising at a meteoric pace. A recent LinkedIn study found that 92% of employers said that soft skills were more so or just as essential as hard or technical skills when looking for employees.
Despite these alarming facts, I sit here writing this, wondering if soft skills are so important, why aren’t there more opportunities to strengthen them? And more to the point, how can people strengthen their soft skills? Why isn’t Canada addressing our growing soft skills deficit by investing in new soft skills training programs and resources?
The fact of it is, there are many tools and programs out there, but they can be prohibitively expensive and often biased, with soft skills training favouring the majority. That means that there is gate-keeping on skills that are universally sought after, and that should never be the case.
Soft skills training needs to be brought in earlier, it needs to start in schools, and it needs to be for everyone. A future without them is grim. It will create a divisive and invisible barrier that only the fortunate would be able to overcome and a scarcity of employable people. That would be a tragedy both for the economy and those seeking employment.
I believe so strongly that soft skills must to be made accessible to everyone, that I’ve made it my life’s work. Myself along with a strong and diverse team created SoftServe, the world’s first game-based learning platform designed to strengthen, track, and empower soft skills in students. We’re measuring and teaching these crucial skills by creating the world’s first Soft Skills Index, a codified and quantifiable way to measure soft skills fueled by anonymous and unbiased data gathered from our game’s use in classrooms. Our goal is to get SoftServe into every classroom across Canada to gather data from a diverse and always changing pool of students to fuel our index, while equipping all students with the skills they need for success. We did this so soft skills training could be democratized, with benefits not just for future employment opportunities but increased personal and interpersonal growth as well.
The issue of bias is prevalent in soft skills education and training. The data surrounding and informing current soft skill training relies on such a small section of the population that the tools developed are often only beneficial for certain groups, leaving many behind. This is unacceptable and needs to be addressed. If soft skills are crucial for future employment, they should be equally valuable and available to all communities and people, not just to a select few. We’re a country that claims to be built on diversity. Our soft skills should reflect this.
Because if soft skills are required to succeed, we need to give everyone the same opportunity to learn and strengthen them; otherwise, we’ll be creating an even larger soft skills deficit, a less human workforce, and ultimately, an employment crisis.
Annee Ngo is the CEO of Softserve.
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