Published on 2012/12/14

Emphasizing Soft Skills in Higher Education Courses

Asheville-Buncombe Technical College (A-B Tech) in Asheville N.C. is placing more focus and emphasis on the soft skills of their students. The college has reported that they have developed a soon-to-be-implemented model which will grade students on skills such as punctuality, attendance and emotional intelligence. It is expected, according to the college, that the grades will be worth somewhere between eight and 10 percent of a given course’s final grade.

In addition to the grading system, students will also receive certificates that relate to the prepared workplace skills to show off with their traditional certificates.

The soft skill grading system is partly being introduced due to the pressure of employers who want to feel confident that the investments they make in hiring their employees will be of great value.

“My students are able to prioritize better,” Finley said. “My supervisor expects me to be a problem solver. And that’s what I expect of my students.”, business instructor, Jean B. Finley told Inside Higher Ed.

Soft skill grades are not a traditional form of credit. However, the college is standing by the importance of introducing and developing these skills with their students.

“You’re going to have a better chance of getting a job and keeping a job,” Sue Olesiuk, A-B Tech’s dean of academic success, told Inside Higher Ed.

The soft skills are not necessarily based on a set of strict parameters. For example, time constraints may not allow a student to be able to attend a particular class or to be involved in group discussions, however learning the best way for the student to handle the situation at hand can help them better understand the outcomes. These types of learned traits can easily transfer to the workplace environment.

Together with the traditional credits involving the academic side paired with the non-traditional grades of particular soft skills, the Asheville-Buncombe Technical College expects to develop an excellent reputation of cultivating more well-rounded students that will demonstrate soft skills in the workplace. Olesiuk said that the program comes with inherent risks, though, as the institution is guaranteeing that graduates and certificate holders will be model employees, and the success or failure of that claim will have an impact on the reputation of the institution.

“We’re putting our name on the line, too,” Olesiuk said to Inside Higher Education.

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