Not only are soft skills important, they are critical for success in college and career. Soft Skills are People Skills and have too often been thought of as vague and hard to evaluate. The 21st century has put the focus onto soft skills for success in today’s changing world and educators and employers are beginning to define them as behaviors that can be assessed.
We like Tony Wagner’s list of what he calls Survival Skills:
- Critical thinking and problem-solving
- Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
- Agility and adaptability
- Initiative and entrepreneurship
- Effective oral and written communication
- Accessing and analyzing information
- Curiosity and imagination*
Whether a student is planning on a career after high school or community college or is preparing to apply to a 4 year college or university, demonstrating these skills will help him achieve his goals. More and more high school and college classes today require students to work collaboratively in project teams and show ways in which they can demonstrate these skills in the classroom. A good teacher is not only interested in the project outcome but wants to observe and guide students as they work together to help them develop these critical skills. But is that enough?
Internships Move Skills into the Real World
It’s great for students to work on a team with friends in a classroom but in the real world their friends aren’t around and they find themselves on a team with adults. As interns they are able to observe how these skills are used in the workplace by successful employees. As interns they are expected to demonstrate these 21st century people skills. And as interns they are able to practice them, not just once but many times in their work setting.
An intern is under the umbrella of a school or college so the internship is a learning experience. And often interns say that what they learned most are people skills. And a quality internship program will be able to evaluate the intern’s learning through projects, portfolios, presentations and exhibits. A quality internship program will give the intern an opportunity to show what she has learned through evidence based interviews.
Internships not only help prepare students as they go forward to college and career but they strengthen those “soft” skills allowing them to navigate their way through the changing world of the 21st century.