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The importance of teaching students ‘soft skills’

January 29, 2014
Inside Education — Ann Lupkes , Times-Republican

Career preparation and Work-based learning experiences play a vital role for all students in meeting their career goal. Knowing the technical skills of a job or having the ability to learn technical or "hard skills" are what usually gets a person hired for the job. What has become increasingly important to getting and keeping a job are "soft skills" or workforce readiness skills.

Six key soft skill areas identified by The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), are: communication, enthusiasm and attitude, teamwork, networking, problem solving and critical thinking and professionalism.

Here are two examples of soft skills and the importance they play in getting and keeping a job.

Communication: Employers consistently rank good communication skills at the top of the list for potential employees. Communication on the job requires students to understand how they give information and how to interpret information received from others.

Enthusiasm and Attitude: Employers look for employees who will complete their tasks with an upbeat and positive attitude. These skills can greatly impact good customer service, resolving work-place conflicts effectively and the ability to work productively with others.

Students need training and opportunities to practice soft skills as well as learn first-hand about specific occupational skills related to their career pathway. These experiences can be provided during the school day in conjunction with a career class, work experience program or part of the 21st Century Skills of the Iowa Core. Other opportunities may be provided through after-school programs, by volunteering and supported at home.


For more information regarding materials or strategies to teach soft skills, contact Ann Lupkes, AEA 267 Work Experience/Transition Coordinator at 641.357.6125 or



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