Sunday, 29 April 2012

Technical or Soft Skills?

In my opinion it is far easier to teach technical skills than 'soft skills'.

"I think he needs help!"

Technical instruction is simply 'monkey see, monkey do' but teaching is more than just a technical exercise. 
I feel it should be a personal goal of the educator to want to encourage students in the development of broader attributes such as communicating amongst their peers, presentations, group projects and critical feedback. Even just a better world view.

As a by-product of their studies students should acquire new skills through a method of preparation, contribution, and by collectively sharing their insights.
On occasion some subjects need a mixture of technical and 'soft skills' to generate interest from the students, who then in turn gain a broader understanding of what the exercise entails. 

This should not take precedence over the technical instruction but it should factor in the outcome. 

At a University level I would not expect the tutors to 'hold our hands' through the duration of the course but I do believe that at any level of education, the tutor should be compelled by their own volition to engage with their students and ensure they are reaching their true potential. 
(I don't know how someone could ignore another person, clearly struggling with a problem, when they hold the knowledge to help them.)

Unfortunately, as I have witnessed very recently, some students are resistant to aid and guidance from even the most attentive and conscientious of advisers. There is just no getting through to some people.

In their lifetime most people will have a range of jobs. The skills they have learned at University or the workplace could end from one role to the next but the basic 'soft skills' are transferable to any new position or role. 
I have found that when you start a new job you are always 'caught on the back foot' and have to be 'broken in' to your new role. This is common practice amongst employers and is usually accompanied by the phrase - 

"Until you fit in we'll have you over here doing such and such".

Essentially you are bringing your technical expertise up to the standard they require before they hand over the responsibility of a working with a team for example, on their latest big project. 
You are an unknown quantity and it would be great a risk to place such a responsibility on the shoulders of someone who has yet to prove capable of such a venture.

In the interim you are relying on your 'soft skills' to make connections in the workplace, manage your time effectively and efficiently and to keep yourself presentable. 

To sum up there is a choice between teaching only the technical skills needed to get students a job and aiding in the development of their attributes but it is not the responsibility of the institution to make this choice but of the educator. After all they are the ones teaching us and can see first hand what benefits are chances of employment.

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