The following was written David Falzani MBE CEng and Paul Kirkham – Nottingham University Business School.
In preparing young people for the workplace the education system is well proven in its ability to convey technical skills and capabilities. However, perhaps there are still opportunities to increase the appreciation and development of soft skills.
Back in the 1980s, improved team working started to become a leading business topic, whereby companies and organisations would succeed by employees working better together – teams and increased cross functional collaboration were the new way to solve an ever increasing complex set of challenges, particularly as the information revolution changed the way we all worked.Sli
Leading practitioners such as Meredith Belbin showed that the performance of a team is directly linked to having a diverse set of personalities and profiles and as well as effective communication and collaboration skills. These are sometimes referred to as soft skills. More recent publications such as Emotional Intelligence (EQ): Why it Can Matter More Than IQ have further extended the understanding of soft skills and also highlighted how it is increasingly recognised as having a crucial role in the workplace.
Evidence shows that employers recruiting from HE and FE greatly value team and communication skills, particularly amongst those with a technical or scientific training – where those skills sometimes don’t have an opportunity to develop during the busy curriculum. They report that those individuals tend to be more productive, more able to quickly integrate into operations, and a better company ‘fit’.
A good way for students, as well as job seekers, to broaden their soft skills is through business competitions. These are increasingly being run by HE and FE providers. Overall, there’s a rising tide of activities around enterprise – partly due to the increased interest in start-up companies, TV shows such as Dragon’s Den/The Apprentice, and the new phenomena of Kickstarter and Indie GoGo. Read more