by Peter Luscombe

Despite how educated and qualified our youth may be they currently struggle to attain employment. Latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show the unemployment rate for 15 to 24-year-olds is 13.1 per cent – more than double the national workforce unemployment rate of 6.3 per cent. Courses at school are chosen with aims and goals in mind, Year 12 is completed by many with a degree of success which makes them technically qualified to enter the work-force, or to go on to tertiary studies where they attain further qualifications to enter the work-force. Technically they are qualified or hard-wired to achieve employment; get a job. So, what’s letting them down? Soft skills!

Australian Government Department of Employment analyst Ivan Neville declares in an article in CareerOne  that young people need to go back to the old-school basics to get a job that soft skills include –communication, teamwork, motivation, reliability and presentation. He goes on to say that a lack of such is what holds back many of the nation’s youth from getting a job. According to Neville it isn’t just our youth who face this issue:

It’s not just about young people – it’s all ages, all industries, all occupations, all skill levels.

To illustrate, here is a rather telling, perhaps dramatic example from SkillsYouNeed  :

Principles of Competition

Think of soft skills in the light of competition principles.

Imagine you are a company producing something, let’s say light bulbs. You come up with a revolutionary new technology. Your light bulbs are suddenly much better than others and your profits go up.

But, after a while, your competitors get hold of the technology: you license its use, perhaps, or they develop alternatives. Suddenly, light bulbs are all the same again and your profits are suffering. You still need the new technology, but you also need a new competitive edge.

Hard skills are like your technology: anyone can acquire them, with training, and they are necessary. Without them you will not be able to operate in the workplace. Soft skills are your unique selling point and give you a competitive edge in the workplace, and perhaps even in life.

light bulb

Soft skills may become even more significant in the light of a recent report commissioned by the Foundation for Young Australians – The New Work Order. This report found 58 per cent of students and 71 per cent of vocational education students were on a career path that could disappear or transform. In other words, they were qualified for jobs which may no longer exist or had greatly changed in regard to what they were technically hard-wired to do, to state matters simplistically. Soft skills, however, transfer as most valuable in any situation so you are engaged with those around you, the currents in the workplace and future opportunities.

Charis Chang writer for the same publication as Ivan Neville observes in an article – 21st century skills: How to future proof your career – that:

Young people who want to find jobs in the future will need these skills, which include confidence, communication, creativity, project management, enthusiasm for learning, critical thinking, team work, digital literacy, financial literacy and global citizenship.

The bar has risen for our youth? I might add most likely for anyone. I think the message is very clear that soft skills are the hard-wired way to go.

In my next post I will address how soft skills help you in your job.

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