Soft skills vs. hard skills

With a new focus on education today, there’s a sense that individuals need training in areas businesses want. Host Mary Walden asked if having a degree or certification in a valued area of study is all it takes to be successful in the job market. Her husband, N.C. State University economist Mike Walden, responds.

Mike Walden: “Well Mary, it’s certainly important. In fact, we call these kinds of skills and training people receive in community college or colleges or any other kind of training facility ‘hard skills.’ So people learn how to be a computer technician; people learn how to be a nurse; people learn how to be a carpenter. And clearly these are very important, and we want to try as best we can to motivate people that go in and learn skills that the market wants.

“But also important are things called soft skills. Soft skills involve things like showing up to work on time, being able and willing to follow orders, being able to work with others, being flexible, being committed to doing your job well. These are not necessarily things you learn in school, but you probably learn them either growing up, or you learn them in part-time jobs that young people have when they’ve reached that certain age.

“And these are often not, as I said, taught in schools. And so it’s going to really vary, depending on the business, how much focus they put on soft skills versus hard skills.  Quite frankly, some businesses really don’t care about the hard skills that someone brings to the business. They’ll teach employees the hard skills. They focus more on the soft skills. So, these are a very, very important part of our economy and a very, very important element of someone being able to get a good paying job.”

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