Calling on Business Leaders to Close the Soft Skills Gap


Closing the soft skills gap will not be quick, but there are many ways that businesses can start closing it today.

A report card doesn’t give a student a letter grade on their ability to work in a team setting. Nor does it record their ability to communicate with others or keep themselves organized. The hard skills that a report card tracks are critical, however in recent years, our understanding around the importance of soft skills and their direct link to determining levels of success has grown.

Although U.S. high school graduation rates are at an all-time high, many employees enter the workforce without the skills that are truly needed to succeed. Recent studies show that essential soft skills such as punctuality, organization, and interpersonal communication are just as important as the hard skills, which now are seen as a basic minimum necessary in order to operate in a particular workplace.

Business executives are echoing this sentiment, with a recent Wall Street Journal survey finding that 89 percent of business leaders have a very or somewhat difficult time finding employees with soft skills. With almost 6 million unfilled jobs in the U.S., it is clear that the soft skills gap is only compounding the mismatch between people without jobs and jobs without people.

Closing the Soft Skills Gap

In early November we released a report that made a business case for partnerships between business and education sectors to close the gap between the soft skills employers require in their workforce and those that students leave school with. With coverage from the LA Times, the Chicago Tribune, Lumina, Politico, Quartz, the Portland Business Journal, and more, it is easy to see that the conversation has traction, but how does a partnership like this actually develop and go to work? While students, educators, and businesses can all agree that there is a dire need for soft skills, there is little consensus or specificity about the best way to address the problem outside of the existing siloes.

In our report, Bridging the Soft Skills Gap, we made a point to share stories of successful businesses already utilizing this partnership model to show that it can work. Businesses know which soft skills they are looking for in a hire and teachers, if they know what is needed, are able to emphasize these skills in the classroom, leading to bright spots of collaboration.

Each case study offers practical recommendations for businesses seeking to make an impact on the soft skills gap, such as investment in local communities and schools through mentorship programs, school adoptions, and work-based learning opportunities.

The results of the business’ investments in schools are impactful and convincing—students are more prepared to enter the workforce with real-life experiences demanding of them to call on soft skills they might not otherwise have known they needed.

Read the case studies: Nike, Ernst & Young, Wegmans, Wynn Las Vegas and the Northern Kentucky Education Council.

Closing the soft skills gap will not be quick, but there are many ways that businesses can start closing it today. Whether offering mentoring programs or career exploration days for students of local schools, voicing the needs of the business community at a local school board meeting, or asking a local school or district how your business can help, just jump in. Are you ready to step up to the challenge and get involved?