soft skills

Don’t worry, grads–robots aren’t taking your jobs (yet)

The demand for "uniquely human" soft skills is increasing even though tech and automation are replacing some jobs

Employers are still asking for workers with strong soft skills, despite increasing technological advancements that allow many jobs to instead be automated.

Strong “uniquely human” skills, as some call them, are some of the most important when it comes to what employers seek in job applicants–but they’re having trouble finding applicants with these skills, according to a new survey from Cengage.

The survey of more than 650 employers and more than 1,500 current and former college students reveals soft skills are most in demand by employers (by at least 65 percent), while quantitative skills and computer and technical skills were less so (47 percent and 50 percent, respectively).

The top skills today’s employers are looking for in candidates include:
• Listening skills (74 percent)
• Attention to detail and attentiveness (70 percent)
• Effective communication (69 percent)
• Critical thinking (67 percent)
• Interpersonal skills (65 percent)
• Active learning/learning new skills (65 percent)

Sixty-eight percent of employers say critical thinking is very important at their organizations, 73 percent of students say it is very important when applying for jobs, and 74 percent of employers say it is very important to gain leadership positions. In fact, many employers value critical thinking above tech skills–52 percent say they prefer a candidate who can learn quickly and think critically even though they might not have the technical skills required.

But there’s a disconnect: 53 percent of students are very confident in their critical-thinking skills, while 41 percent of employers say the process of finding qualified candidates with critical-thinking skills is somewhat difficult and 23 percent say it is very difficult.

“These results show that we must not underestimate the power of the people factor in the workforce. Technology and automation will continue to change and replace jobs, but there are skills that cannot be automated, such as the ability to think critically or problem solve,” says Michael Hansen, Cengage CEO.

Despite these soft skills in high demand, 73 percent of surveyed employers say they have a very or somewhat difficult time finding qualified candidates to fill open positions. About one-third (34 percent) say schools have not properly prepared students for jobs.

Students are not having an easy time, either: 65 percent say finding a job is more difficult compared to their parents’ generation. Twenty-five percent of students are worried that jobs will be replaced by technology; however, what worries them even more is having the soft skills needed for a job (77 percent). One in three students believe their education has not adequately prepared them for the workplace.

“For candidates willing to hone their ‘uniquely human skills,’ there is opportunity,” Hansen adds. “While employers anticipate that computer and tech skills will be among the most coveted in the next five years, many human skills, such as critical thinking, communication, and the ability to learn new skills will remain important.”

Sign up for our newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Laura Ascione

Oops! We could not locate your form.