Youth: Hard and Soft Skills

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Skills header image

Every year that passes it seems harder and harder to prepare our teenagers and young adults to enter the workforce. Between new emerging markets and the robotizing of positions, there is a constant need for the acquisition of new hard skills. However, even life-long dedication to learning isn’t always enough to make people competitive in the labor market. According to the USAID Office of Education workers also need to be fluent in several soft skills.

What are Soft Skills? For that matter what are Hard Skills? Hard Skills are the cumulation of all formal education and technical training with an emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM). Soft Skills, however, are the knowledge of and ability to utilize relation skills and emotional intelligence. All of these soft skills are integral to a person’s ability to collaborate with coworkers and to provide superior understanding to clients. Many employers rate the importance of Soft Skills equal to a prospective employee’s skill and training with Hard Skills. Soft Skills that were deemed especially important were high-order thinking skills (or critical thinking/analysis), self-control, social skills or emotional intelligence, and communication, are necessary.

While all of these skills are important and valued across fields, communication is most often given extremely high importance. Employers find the ability for their employees to clearly and concisely articulate information to both co-workers and clients, through written and oral means integral to their institution’s success. Further, effective communication often indicates good social and relational skills, increasing their effectiveness in teamwork. Most employers actively seek employees who cannot only succeed in a team environment but thrive in it.

Can these Soft Skills be acquired through traditional formal education? What else can be done to expand our young people’s Soft Skills? Soft Skills can be learned, to an extent, through school, however, there can never be enough opportunities for teens, and younger kids to practice communication and their social relation skills. A great opportunity for youth to engage with one another while, building their oral and written communication skills, is to participate in North Carolina’s 4-H Presentation Competition.

To prepare for the NC 4-H South East District Presentation Competition our youth can participate in our Pamlico County 4-H Spring Presentation Club. In this club, youth will be able to work on their active listening skills, extemporaneous speaking, and formal speaking. By engaging with other youth in team activities they will develop their relation abilities and effective communication. Our big project will be for each participant to research and write a presentation on a topic they are passionate about or something they want to learn more about and practice that presentation for our County Activity Day on May 18, 2019. We will polish those presentations and take them to District competition in June where youth can interact with others from multiple counties. Come join the fun, make new and lasting friends, and experience exciting topics.

If you are interested in participating or learning more about this program please join us for our first meeting on February 6, 2019, at the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Pamlico County office from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. For more information about 2019 Summer Fun Programs, or any of our upcoming spring programs, such as, our Sewing Club, Crochet Workshops, and Spring Break Camping Trip, give us a call at 252-745-4121, email, check us out online, or stop by our office (13724 NC, Highway 55, Alliance, NC 28509). Our next Junk Drawer Robotics meetings will be February 1, and February 22. Don’t forget to come out and support our 4-Hers at the Coastal Plains Livestock Show on April 22 and 23 at the Lenoir County Livestock Arena, check out their projects on our Facebook page. I am very proud of all the hard work they’ve done so far.