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Soft skills, new hard skills to master?

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

In an employability-focused study based on 150,000 engineering students, a New-Delhi employee solutions company, Aspiring Minds, found barely 7 percent suitable for core engineering jobs. According to the HRD ministry, India today has 6,214 engineering and technology institutions that are enrolling 2.9 million students. Around 1.5 million engineers are released into the job market every year. But with the blatant shortcomings in India’s higher education system, these engineers are ill-equipped to be employed and an area of utmost concern is in the department of soft skills development.

Soft skills are a crucial tool in any young graduate’s repertoire. Effective communication skills, the ability to express one’s views, opinions, ideas in a concise and coherent manner, and the capacity to work well in a team environment has become the need of the hour. Though one can’t take away the importance of core technical skills in job employability, it can be argued that soft skills have become just as important. With the advent of the internet and online learning, the number of graduates making strides in aspects of core technical learning online is increasing rapidly. But without the needed soft skills to corroborate said learning, it is becoming harder for MNCs to hire these graduates and more challenging for young professionals to make an impact within their organizations.

“College students today have so much potential”, says Neha Agrawal, Founder, and CEO of WiseUp Communications.

“They have sound knowledge of technical skills with online upskilling courses, technical clubs in college, and internships through which they get hands-on experience. However, when asked to talk about these skills either on a resume or in an interview, they are unable to express themselves and share what they have learned through these experiences. This lack of communication expertise is often misread by employers who consider these students to be under-trained and hence, unemployable, In the workplace, young graduates are unable to showcase their technical skills in meeting discussions, formal presentations, and knowledge sharing sessions. The dearth of oral and written communication skills is causing them to fall behind their more experienced peers.”

An important factor leading to these pitfalls is the Indian Higher Education curriculum of today which is traditionally very result-oriented and not process-oriented. A typical engineering graduate curriculum has about 35-40 subjects with very few courses tailored for the wholesome development of the individual. The curriculums do not address basic job skills and requirements such as resume/cover letter writing, technical presentation/report writing skills, and basic English communication etiquette. These “soft skills” have been blatantly ignored by the institutions pushing many young engineering graduates and professionals alike to look towards outside consulting companies to help them in these crucial areas. And they really can’t be blamed. These skills besides technical abilities are what recruiters have been trained to look at. In this respect, the Indian education system has been left coughing in the dust.

WiseUp Communications hopes to mitigate these shortcomings by helping students, graduates, and young professionals solve their communication challenges for employability or higher education through workshops on enhancing academic, scientific, and career-related communication skills. Some of the workshops being offered are “Effective Resume and Cover Letter Writing’’ “Acing an Interview’’ ‘’Mastering a Presentation’’ and “Basics of Research Article Writing

“The resume workshop was an eye-opener,” says Akshit Harti, a 3rd-year student of R V College of Engineering, Bangalore.

“The workshop did a tremendous job in busting commonplace myths and clearing doubts. It was a great learning experience and I would recommend it to every student taking a step towards their career aspirations”

Given the present job market, it has become de-facto expected of young professionals to have mastered effective communication skills on top of essential technical ones. With the number of jobs dwindling in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, effective communication is going to become even more paramount for job hunting. Whether these skills are exercised over a zoom call or in a face to face setting, one can’t deny the importance of soft skills in a young graduates' career growth. Suffice to say, soft skills really are the new hard skills to master which will no doubt prove to be a key differentiator in the career growth ladder.

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