Employers certainly do. A 2013 survey of more than 300 employers found that 93% agreed that a candidate’s demonstrated soft skills are more important than their undergraduate major.Perhaps that’s why the media is paying attention. There have been a slew of articles on the topic in the last several months.
- The Soft Skills Managers Want (Business Week)
- The Real Reason New College Grads Can’t Get Hired (Time)
- How Grads can Effectively Showcase Soft Skills to Employers (Fox Business News)
We’ve heard it first hand as well. We’ve shared the First 2000 Days presentation with more than 300 business leaders across North Carolina. As soon as we mention “soft skills,” heads start nodding. Business professionals tell us that despite a high unemployment rate, they have jobs that they cannot fill because of a lack of these skills.
Nobel Laureate economist James Heckman has been making this case for some time. His video, the Hard Facts About Soft Skills, notes we rely too much on IQ tests and SAT scores and not enough on character. Heckman says “character skills turn knowledge into know-how and people into productive citizens.” This is where early childhood comes in. These “soft skills,” also called “social-emotional skills,” are developed during children’s earliest years. For example, learning to play with others develops language skills and improved teamwork, making up games and rules develops negotiation skills; learning to follow rules develops ethics and early exploration develops creating thinking and problem solving.