Workforce Connections Key "Soft Skills" That Foster Youth Workforce Success: Toward a Consensus Across Fields
The Brookings Institution, USAID, and FHI 360 co-sponsored “Skills for Workforce Success: from Research to Action,” a symposium to convene experts to discuss the state of evidence about what “soft skills” are most important for workforce outcomes, how to measure them, terminology, and best practices. Soft skills are behaviors, attitudes, and personal qualities that enable people to effectively navigate their environment and complement technical, vocational, and academic skills. The symposium was hosted by the Brookings Institution in Washington DC on June 17th, 2015. This one-day event featured panel discussions and distinguished speakers such as James Joseph Heckman, Nobel Laureate and Professor of Economics, University of Chicago; Rebecca Winthrop, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Universal Education, Brookings Institution; and Laura Lippman, Senior Program Director, Child Trends. If you were unable to attend the event, you can find the link to James Heckman's keynote address, Rebecca Winthrop's Prezi Presentation and the video of the first panel session below.
- James Heckman's presentation slides
- Video and full transcript of Soft Skills for Workforce Success: From Research to Action first panel
- Rebecca Winthrop's Prezi Presentation
At the symposium Child Trends presented the Workforce Connections white paper, "Key 'Soft' Skills that Foster Youth Workforce Success: Toward a Consensus Across Fields." The new report, released on June 17th, 2015 was authored by Child Trends as part of the Workforce Connections project managed by FHI 360 and funded by USAID. It recommends five key skills that increase the likelihood that youth (ages 15 to 29) will get a job, keep a job, perform well, earn more, or achieve entrepreneurial success.
Child Trends in collaboration with FHI 360, studied the relationship between soft skills and four workforce outcomes: getting a job or being employed, performance on the job, wages, and entrepreneurial success, and identified the following five most important skills that help youth and young adults to be successful in the workplace:
- social skills, or the ability of youth to get along with others;
- communication skills, including oral, written, non-verbal, and listening skills;
- higher-order thinking, consisting of problem solving, critical thinking and decision making;
- self-control, the ability to delay gratification, control impulses, direct and focus attention, manage emotions, and regulate behaviors; and
- a positive self-concept, which includes self-confidence, self-efficacy, self-awareness, as well as a sense of well-being and pride.
"Youth who are competent in these soft skills are more likely to be effective in their job searches and interviews and thus are more likely to be hired, and to perform better on the job, leading to promotion and higher wages” said Child Trends Senior Program Area Director Laura Lippman, and the report’s lead author.
The report lists the top ten skills for both the general, adult population as well as youth populations for each outcome. It describes the strength and breadth of the evidence, and whether they are validated across regions and sectors, as well as across stakeholder groups, and whether there is evidence that the skills can be improved during adolescence and young adulthood. The report also suggests implications for youth workforce development and training programs. It provides common terminology necessary to make major strides in building consensus across fields on the best bets for investment in youth development and workforce training programs.