The QA Commons is mindful of the dramatic and transformational impact COVID-19 is having on all institutions of higher education. As an organization, we are adapting our services to support preparing graduates for the workplace that is now changing more precipitously than ever.
QA Commons focuses on ensuring students are trained in the proficiencies employers say are most needed, which candidates often lack and can be the most challenging to develop. Often referred to as “soft,” “transferrable,” “durable,” or “noncognitive” skills, we characterize them as Essential Employability Qualities (EEQs). The concept of EEQs is not new. It’s been around for about a century. However, the way these skills manifest in the workplace changes over time.
The term “soft skills” was created by the U.S. Army in the late 1960s, referring to any skill that did not employ the use of machinery.1 The military realized that many important activities were included within this category and that the social skills necessary to lead groups, motivate soldiers, and win wars were encompassed by skills they had not yet cataloged or fully studied.
In fact, the concept of “soft skills” was being discussed decades earlier. While the Industrial Revolution created a primary focus on “hard” skills and value was placed on the ability to perform tasks, there was change on the horizon. In the 1920s and 1930s, early workforce researchers like Elton Mayo and projects like the Hawthorne Studies led to the Human Relations Movement, marking a pivotal shift in management thinking by emphasizing the significance of interpersonal relationships, employee satisfaction, and social dynamics in the workplace. In the following decades, labor force leaders and researchers cycled through issues and practices like leadership studies (1930s-40s), behavioral psychology and communication skills (1940s-50s), total quality management (1980s), and information age/globalization developments (1990s-present).
In 2023-24, with the rapid pace of technological change transforming industries and job roles, we are seeing a focus> on the need for a combination of “digital” and “human” skills.2> Interestingly, while the top ten digital skills vary significantly from year to year, the human skills in demand remain steadier and more “evergreen.”2 In addition to communication, collaboration, and critical thinking, employability skills such as adaptability and a willingness to learn are particularly important. Navigating and embracing new technologies is critical to staying relevant in the workforce.
Employability is about more than being trained for an entry-level job. EEQs are pivotal in longer-term career success and contribute to sustained professional growth and resilience in an ever-changing work landscape. QA Commons has the expertise and knowledge to help organizations better develop these qualities in their students and employees. We welcome the opportunity to partner and help ensure today’s learners are prepared for the changing world of work.
1 Bryn, D. (n.d.). Soft skills. Brittanica Money. Retrieved December 27, 2023, from https://www.britannica.com/money/soft-skills
2 Coursera (2023). The Job Skills of 2023. https://www.coursera.org/campus/resources/job-skills-2023
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