The need to teach basic life skills is more Important in a 21st Century world than ever before.  This is because the 21st Century is more diverse, more global, more inter-connected, and more competitive than at any other time in history.  Additionally, employers have automated or outsourced many routine tasks.  The jobs that remain often require workers to take on broader responsibilities that demand critical thinking, empathy, and other skills that technology can’t easily deliver.

Clearly technical skills are important, but many technical skills can be learned in school or “On-the-Job” (OJT).  What employers are saying is they’re having trouble finding applicants with the “soft skills” necessary to succeed — things like taking initiative, problem-solving, and being able to co-exist with coworkers. Simply being able to show up on time, organized and ready for the day is something that is apparently getting harder to find.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, a LinkedIn survey of 291 hiring managers found 58 percent say candidates lack these important soft skills — skills that cannot be easily outsourced or automated. A WSJ survey of 900 executives found soft skills to be considered equal to or more important than technical skills, but 89 percent said they have a very or somewhat difficult time finding people with the soft skills they need.

And it isn’t just the oft-disparaged millennials falling short of expectations. The problem spans age groups and experience levels.

The challenge is that teaching these skills isn’t as easy as training someone to use a specific computer programs or perform specific tasks.

These soft skills, like capacity for teamwork, communication skills, social savvy, creativity and adaptability, are particularly important in the service sector where there is a heavy reliance on person to person contact.  This becomes even more important when you consider the amount of service sector job.

The services sector is an important part of the U.S. economy. According to BEA, in 2009 services accounted for 79.6 percent of U.S. private-sector gross domestic product (GDP), or $9.81 trillion. Services jobs accounted for more than 80 percent of U.S. private-sector employment, or 89.7 million jobs.

Today, workers need to be developing these soft skills earlier and earlier. Parents, teachers, mentors — everyone — need to be helping young people develop these “soft skills,” which are really basic life skills. Listen better, communicate better, get along with others, show up on time. It’s not rocket science, but apparently it’s something that’s not always found.

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