Closing the Soft Skills Gap At META
In a 2017 report entitled “Bridging the Soft Skills Gap,” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation notes that “employers are coping with new hires who are unsure of how to write a professional email, struggle to organize and prioritize tasks, or have a difficult time collaborating with coworkers.”
On the flip side, recent college graduates use words like “Exhausted,” “Lost,” and “Anxious” to describe their experience joining the workforce. “Everything’s a struggle,” one said, as reported in the Harvard Business Review.
In another blog, we discussed how META learners harness their unique skill set to meet three goals: creating value, reconciling tensions, and taking responsibility. This means moving away from the hard skills and academic content to a more contemporary set of metrics for educational excellence. Here, we specifically explore how and why META equips students with the soft skills necessary for a fulfilling career.
Mind The Gap
If we’re now aiming for excellence to include wellbeing, community inclusion, and having a robust network alongside those technical capacities, then we must design our educational framework with these goals in mind.
What we call META skills are commonly referred to as soft skills, and given second billing in academic curriculums. But in contrast to hard skills and technical skills, which lead to employment in specialized sectors, such as technology or manufacturing, soft skills are valued by employers across the board.
In the 2017 report by the chamber of commerce, some examples of soft skills included teamwork and collaboration skills, leadership, problem-solving and critical thinking, work ethic and persistence, as well as organizational skills, creativity, interpersonal communication, and relationship skills such as conflict resolution. The importance of this skill set is widely acknowledged both in and out of education, yet they are very rarely taught in traditional schooling with consistency or given prioritization.
At META Learning, these soft skills are the priority. We aim to close the gap between the soft skills desired by employers and the poor professional skill set most students leave high school with. We achieve this through deliberate practice of these soft skills throughout our learning experiences and global immersions, and through our deep and meaningful collaboration with businesses, organizations, and educational partners around the world.
As Time Magazine notes, the entry-level candidate joining the ranks of full-time workers are completely clueless about the fundamentals of office life and the abilities needed to thrive there. The US Chamber of Commerce reports that somewhere along the road from education to employment, the system is not routinely equipping all students with the skills they need to thrive.
This is not the case with META Learning. Our team has experienced linking learning with non-profit organizations across the United States, local governments in India, European universities, and companies in Japan, to ensure that our learners are having an authentic and relevant learning experience that builds both their soft skills and industry-specific hard skills.
To be able to communicate and collaborate with industry professionals, to solve problems creatively and complete all necessary tasks, META learners are constantly using these soft skills alongside their hard skills to reach success.
One analysis by LinkedIn found that the ability to communicate is the most predictive of LinkedIn members for getting hired, followed by organization, capacity for teamwork, punctuality, critical thinking, social savvy, creativity, and adaptability. In short, we know from both the world’s largest career networking site and the US Chamber of Commerce that soft skills pay off.
James Heckman, a Nobel prize-winning economist, says we now have very hard evidence that you must have soft skills in order to succeed at all. We need to ensure our students are just as hard-working, conscientious, and organized as they are capable of demonstrating technical knowledge and hard skills. Meanwhile, Cheryl Oldham, the senior vice president of the education and workforce program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, says that “businesses large and small constantly tell us how hard it is to find qualified workers who can not only do the job but who will also show up to work on time, dress appropriately, and work well with their teams.”
With 15 million unfilled jobs in America after a year of Covid-19, the lack of soft skills hurts workers, businesses, and the overall economy. Organizations everywhere recognize the critical need for soft skills and are working hard in their communities to help students obtain the skill set they urgently need to succeed in the jobs of tomorrow.
A Soft Skills Incubator
At META Learning, we’re also fulfilling Cheryl Oldham’s call. We are actively working to close the soft skills gap between education and employers by linking our learners to the communities in which they live and to the global cultures we immerse them in through travel experiences. Our alternative education programs cater to holistic, well-rounded learners, helping them develop both their technical skills and their soft skills.
We act as a soft skills incubator, helping our learners prepare for a wide range of possibilities throughout their careers. As opposed to curriculums focused on content acquisition and industry knowledge, we’re looking to create an environment that couples hard skills with soft skills.
This makes our students extremely hirable if not excellent candidates for upper management positions everywhere, giving them the opportunity to enter the most impactful organizations and companies and become changemakers in the 21st century.