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Soft Skills are Hard

A Review of the Literature

In recent years, substantial research and industry attention has been paid to the perceived gap between the skills possessed by new university graduates and the requirements of employers in Canada’s fastest growing sectors. Surveys of employers have tended to categorize skills into “technical skills” and “soft skills”. However, existing research on these gaps is still lacking, particularly on the nature of required “soft skills” and how they can best be developed.

For example, much of the research on the nature of “soft skills” has tended to focus on the needs of graduates from Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) or other professional disciplines, such as business, assuming that Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) graduates have already developed “soft skills” through the course of their studies. However, there is evidence that while SSH graduates may have important critical thinking and communications skills, they may lack the particular “soft skills” required by employers (Cukier, 2014; Singmaster, 2013). The way by which these skills are defined, measured and mastered is an important area to explore given the importance of addressing the problem of “jobs without people” and “people without jobs” in Canada.


November 2015

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