Survey Shows Schools Should Push ‘Soft Skills’ Needed for Workforce


A new study conducted by Wainhouse Research shows that education stakeholders believe their schools need to be doing more in order to better prepare students for the workforce.

Over 1,000 administrators, teachers, students and parents were surveyed for the study, The Role of Education in Building Soft Skills, in both the United Kingdom and the United States.  While 39% of education stakeholders were found to believe that schools were not doing enough to prepare students for the workforce, “many” of the participants said they “believe that schools are doing a decent job focusing on the 3 R’s: reading, writing and mathematics, but are not doing as good a job focusing on other aspects of education essential to preparing learners for entering the workforce.”

In addition, many of those who participated felt that too much time was spent teaching to the test, and that instead more time should be spent learning to collaborate with other students.

Of those surveyed, 58% said too much time was spent focusing on mandated testing in addition to having students work alone or on individual achievements.  60% said they felt not enough emphasis was placed on collaborating with other learners outside the classroom; 46% felt more emphasis needed to be placed on group achievement; and 40% said it needed to be put into learning to work as a team.

The two soft skills respondents said were most important included problem solving (96%) and learning to collaborate (95%).  These were the two skills seen as the most important to prepare students for life ahead as members of the workforce.

Nine out of ten respondents said that a focus on collaboration would increase active participation among students, and 88% added that teaching collaborative skills would allow learners the ability to take charge of their own education.

Despite these benefits, only 32% of stakeholders surveyed felt that schools are actually well-focused when it comes to teaching collaborative skills.  In addition, 91% said teachers need additional training pertaining to how to increase these skills among their students, and 87% believe the skills should be a part of the formal curriculum.

Researchers suggest students receive experiential, constructive education in order to provide a better focus on collaborative skills, and new criteria for measuring those skills needs to be established.  Teachers also need to be modeling this behavior.  Many stakeholders believe this can only come about through additional funding, new assessment, additional training for teachers, and a change to the pedagogy behind teaching.

The study went on to say that collaborative skills were viewed as important for the workplace, with 94% feeling it is an important skill for a mature workforce and 92% believing it is important for economic growth.  Additionally, 90% felt the skills are important for successful learning, and 89% reported it is important to have those skills in order to be successful later on in life.

While some felt that failing to adapt to the changing economy could result in major consequences, the majority reported that the benefits that come with collaborating to both society and the learner as an individual are essential.  As employers continue to see the benefits, researchers say the skills are here to stay.