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New report links soft skills to increased employment success among youth

July 15, 2015

According to a new report authored by Child Trends and sponsored by the FHI 360-managed Workforce Connections project, five key soft skills can increase the likelihood that youth and young adults will succeed in the workplace. Soft skills are behaviors, attitudes and personal qualities that enable people to navigate their environment effectively. These skills complement technical, vocational and academic skills.

The paper, titled “Key ‘soft skills’ that foster youth workforce success: Toward a consensus across fields,” details findings from more than 380 international publications and other resources. It explores the relationship between soft skills and four workforce outcomes: getting a job and remaining employed, performance on the job, wages and entrepreneurial success. It identifies the five most important skills in determining the success of youth and young adults (ages 15–29) in the workplace:

  • Social skills, or the ability of youth to get along with others
  • Communication skills, including oral, written, nonverbal and listening skills
  • Higher-order thinking, consisting of problem solving, critical thinking and decision making
  • Self-control, or the ability to delay gratification, control impulses, direct and focus attention, manage emotions and regulate behaviors
  • Positive self-concept, including self-confidence, self-efficacy, self-awareness and a sense of well-being and pride

Results from the report were presented at the June 17, 2015 symposium hosted by the Brookings Center for Universal Education. This one-day event featured panel discussions and distinguished speakers such as James Heckman, Nobel Laureate and Professor of Economics, University of Chicago; Rebecca Winthrop, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Universal Education, Brookings Institution; and Laura Lippman, Senior Program Director, Child Trends. 

Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Workforce Connections promotes evidence-based learning and peer-to-peer knowledge exchange, with the goal of improving the capacity of USAID and its industry partners to deliver quality workforce development programming. Read more about Workforce Connections in our annual report.

Experts from FHI 360 and Child Trends will be discussing key findings from the report at the upcoming Making Cents International: Global Youth Economic Opportunities Summit on October 8th, 2015, in Washington, DC.

Home page photo credit: Jessica Scranton/FHI 360 Mozambique