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Abstract

With the changing educational trends, versatility in educational courses, availability of masses of qualified personnel,the competition for job acquisition and job sustainability is becoming more and more tough. To get an edge overthe competitors, students are left with no choice but to add values to their hard skills with soft skills to exhibit their truepotential. Hard skills are academic skills, experience and level of expertise while soft skills are self-developed, interactive,communication, human and transferable skills. Literature suggests that hard skills contribute to only 15% of one's successwhile remaining 85% is made by soft skills. Most employers these days want to hire, retain and promote persons who aredependable, resourceful, ethical, self directed, having effective communication, willing to work and learn and having positiveattitude. With the onset of economic liberalization, the Indian market is also becoming global, so the attributes of soft skillsare to be imbibed by Indian youth to show their real potential at intra and international levels. Understanding the importanceof this newly raised important aspect, most of the educational institutions in India have initiated programmes, projects andactivities for developing soft skills in their students. A study was undertaken in the most dynamic city of India, Chandigarh,also recognized as Knowledge City, where almost all types of educational facilities and job opportunities are available. The study tries to understand the awareness, need and importance of soft skills in students, type of courses/projects/activitiesinitiated by varied educational institutions at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, their relevance, teaching-learningprocess, their impact in developing soft skills and benefits to students. This paper presents the findings of the above study.The paper also puts forward some suggestions for making above initiatives more effective for developing students fullyequipped with relevant soft skills.
Developing Soft Skills in Students
Meenu Wats, D.A.V. College, Chandigarh, India
Rakesh KumarWats, National Instituteof TechnicalTeachers'Training and Research,
Chandigarh, India
-.Lbstract: With the changing educational trends, versatility in educational courses, availability of masses of qualifed per-
v'hile remaining 85ok is made by soft skills' Most employers
dependable, resourceful, ethical, effective
oiit d". With the onset of econo e Indian
are to be imbibed by Indian youth to show their real potential ainstitutions in India have initiated programmes' proiecls and
as undertaken in the most dynamic city of India' Chandigarh'
I J'acilities and iob
lls in students, tYPe
equipped with relev(,nt soft skills.
Keyrvords: Hard Skills, Soft Skills, world of work, Higher Education Institutions, curriculum, Work Place
lntroduction
EW TECHNOLOGIES HAVE been
driving the emergence of a new 'knowledge
economy' with ever increasing proportion
of national GNPs dedicated to new techno-
logy based industry and high level services sector'
The changes in occupational structure and required
skills as countries adopt new technologies, therefore
apply to emerging 'knowledge economy' as well,
along with their implications for higher education
and training system which is the backbone for the
gowth and development of any country.
The 'knowledge economy' is not just high techno-
logy industry or lCT. It can be broadly described as
the one that hamesses and uses new and existing
knowledge to improve the productivity of various
sectors such as agriculture, industry servrces etc'
and increases overall welfare. The central theme of
the emergence of a knowledge economy revolves
around the knowledge which may be in the form of
complex problem solving, innovation and creativity,
visualization of new markets, understanding social
and global implications, working in new environ-
ments and with people of different cultures and
countries, developing new products and services etc"
ln this scenario the contemporary workplace is also
characterized by (rather than merely subject to)
continuous change. One impact of this transformation
is that lifelong learning has been identified as a
means of sustaining employability as well as profes-
sional and career growth. It is widely believed that
such dimensions of performance as learning, innov-
ation and enterprises can be enhanced by placing
greater emphasis on developing soft skills within the
education and training processes. While hard skills
are discipline specific skills needed to performbasic
duties at work, soft skills are the ones that define an
individual's approach towards work and life prob-
lems etc. In other words, it can be said, while hard
skills are the academic skills, experience and level
of expertise as generally described in a resume and
indicate the knowledge of concepts, principles,
methods, procedures and techniques needed for per-
forming jobs, soft skills are those sought out beha-
viours and characteristics that employees demonstrate
unconsciously and routinely on the job.
Though, the importance of soft skills has been re-
cognized throughout the world, but the terminology
used to refer these varies from country to country'
These are generally referred to as key competencies,
soft skills, generic skills or employability skills in
THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF LEARNING'
VOLUME I5, NUMBER 12'2009
bttp://www.Learning-Joumal.com, ISSN I 447-9494
€,common Ground, Meenu wats, Rakesh Kumal wats, All Rights Reserued,'Pemissions: cg-support@commongroundpublishing'com
THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF LEARNING. VOLUME 15
Australia; key skills or core skills in United King-
dom; essential skills in New Zealand; and necessary
skills, employability skills or workplace know-how
in United States. Although, the nomenclature may
vary but their centrality to competence of an indi-
vidual and need and importance especially in today's
techno-economic scenario has been accepted and
readily appreciated. According to Costin (2002), the
appropriate and skilful application of hard skills is
soft skills dependent. He categories hard skills as
being those associated with 'product' and the 'indi-
vidual', while soft skills are those of 'process and
community: warning against being too ready to di-
chotomize the two, he proposes a soft skill- hard skill
continuum . Such amodel makes it easierto compre-
hend the territory in which soft and hard skills blur,
mend and work together (l).
The imporlance of soft skills in today's global
environment can be further emphasized based on the
findings of various surveys conducted in different
countries. A survey on'Technological Innovation,
Ageing Labour Forces and Effective use of Human
Resource' conducted in Japan emphasizes that a
worker will be required not only to perform a com-
plex job compounding several tasks - programming,
maintenance, monitoring and operation, he or she
will be required, in addition, to possess logical
mental power, problem solving ability and adaptab-
ility to go through the changes. Such an 'All round
worker' would be equipped with widely varied skills
and technical knowledge in such a way that he under-
stands every action in the performance of skills in
relation to the relevant technical knowledge. Another
survey conducted in New Zealand on the perception
of employers about the most important skills and
knowledge among employees emphasizes commu-
nication skills, supewision skills, diagnostic skills
and design ability. An Australian study by Stevenson
and Mckavanagh argues for a more comprehensive
view of skills and emphasizes the need for 'the less
obvious but important transferable skills such as
leaming how to learn, discovery, analysis, problem
solving, experimentation, linking new concEpts with
existing knowledge, relating verbal and non verbal
representations and concrete objects, analysing and
interpreting (2).
These studies and similar other studies conducted
throughout the world clearly highlight the importance
ofsoft skills. Thus, the higher education and training
system for this emerging formal economy, that is
increasingly imbued with higher technologies and
globalisedknowledge will have to deal with the twin
challenge ofbuilding both: higher order soft skills
as well as specific hard skills because the manpower
with only hard technical skills will have little value
if it is poor in soft skills. The need of the present
time is to find out from industrv. business and service
sector, their expectations of the type of manpower
in terms of both discipline specific hard skills and
soft skills and inculcate these in the students through
various curricular and extra-curricular interventions.
Giving sufficient weightage to soft skills in cur-
riculum of the courses of higher education would
not only strengthen the employable skills for work-
force effectiveness and competency but also help in
building better social and cultural relations leading
to success and quality oflife.
Understanding the importance of soft skills in
today's competitive world and the role of higher
education in building competent and relevant man-
power for the economic and social growth of the
country, most of the educational institutions in India
have initiated programmes, projects and activities
for developing soft skills in students, the manpower
of future. Institutions are using different approaches,
methods. media. evaluation and assessment mechan-
isms. There was a need to understand the impact of
these initiatives for developing right type of man-
power for meeting the needs of the emerging know-
ledge economy of the country.
Keeping in view, the above objective, a study was
undertaken in the most dynamic city of India,
Chandigarh, also recognized as the Knowledge City.
The city, Chandigarh, has almost all types of educa-
tional facilities and campuses of many multi-national
and world class organisations and hence represents
the changing scenario of Indian economy in terms
of varied job opportunities available. The present
study tries to understand the awareness, need and
importance of soft skills in students, type of
courses/proj ects/activities initiated by varied educa-
tional institutions at undergraduate and postgraduate
levels, their relevance, teachingJearning process,
their impact and benefits to students. This paper
presents the findings of this study. The paper also
puts forward some recommendations for making
above initiatives more effective for developing
competent students as per the requirements of the
world of work.
Review of Literature
Although alarge amount of documents, reports, re-
search papers, articles etc. were reviewed for the
study, however, a few important are presentedbelow:
Rosalie Flynn (2006) in his discussion paper pre-
pared for Australian Industry Group and the Busi-
ness, Industry and Higher Education Collaboration
Council highlights employment outcomes of higher
education. While presenting the definitions and de-
scriptions of graduate employment skills, he explains
the ways and means adopted for developing, assess-
ing and recording these skills in the universities of
Australia (3).
;t
il
I
t
I
I
lt
Goel (2006) collates recommendations made by
various professional councils and researchers about
core competencies for engineering graduates. He
brings together the contemporary prescriptions of
accreditation agencies of US, UK, Australia, Japan
and Singapore. He presents a three dimensional tax-
onomy of competencies. While highlighting the re-
source based accreditation criteria of NBA in India,
the recommendations of National Association of
Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) and
lndian Government Task Force to examine human
resource challenge for IT and IT enabled services
sector have also been discussed by him. He also
suggests transformation in teaching-learning and
assessment processes for developing sfudents as per
the needs ofpresent day industry (4).
Chadha & Nicholas (2005) while discussing the
integrated approach present embedded and bolt on
approaches for skills development in undergraduate
engineering students. Based on the case sfudies of
four institutions/programmes using different ap-
proaches for transferable skills development, they
enlist the advantages and disadvantages ofthe above
three approaches (5).
, Paul Benkeser and Wendy Newsletter (2004)
present an approach ofdeveloping soft skills in stu-
dents through the use of problem based learning
(PBL) experiences infused throughout the cur-
riculum. Examples ofproblems, tools and assessment
techniques designed to promote the leaming of soft
skills have also been incorporated in their paper (6).
Hangman and Almekinders et.al. (2003), while
suggesting the interweaving of soft skills in existing
courses, describe two processes which were designed
to integrate soft skills development in different aca-
demic settings. Encouraging lessons and insights for
learning participation have also been presented by
them (7).
Clayton et.al. (2003) in their research study invest-
igate the nature ofgeneric skills as dgfined and un-
derstood in contemporary Australian and intemation-
al VET context. Embedding ofthese skills in training
packages and accredited courses, assessment and
certification of these skills and the implications of
the increased emphasis of these generic skills on
Australian VET system have also been emphasized
by them (8).
Saxton ( I 996) highlights the importance of generic
skills in additionto technical skills. For strengthening
his vier*' point, he reviews the findings of three re-
searches viz. study by American Association of
Commrrniw and Junior Colleges, Study by Confer-
ence Board of Canada and Curriculum Evaluation
in Singapore. He presents an integrated list of generic
skills based on the findines of the above studies. He
elo dasr=ilx tha mtam' +;'ll^.r-p,l i- a--.,{. f^-
MEENU WATS. RAKESH KUMAR WATS
Objectives
The broad objectives ofthe present study were to:
. Understandthe awareness and importance of soft
skills amongst students;
. Identify type of courses/programmes and meth-
ods adopted by higher education institutions for
developing soft skills in students;
. Understand the impact of methods adopted for
developing soft skills; and
. Suggest measures for making soft skills develop-
ment courses/programmes more effective.
Methodology
The methodology for the study comprised of descript-
ive research design and accordingly a survey was
conducted. The information for the study was
sourced, first fiom an initial review ofliterature re-
lating to development of soft skills. For this pu{pose
various documents, reports, research papers and art-
icles were scanned. The second and the major source
of information was generated from primary research
involving use of comprehensive undisguised and
parlially structure questionnaire, interviews and ob-
servations. The population for the survey comprised
of 150 students and 50 teachers, professionals and
experts involved in developing soft skills amongst
students. The data was also collected from colleges
conducting varied courses (both general education
and professional education courses). The collected
data was edited, coded and tabulated. The tabulated
data was analysed and inferences drawn to interpret
the meaning. Simple statistical tools like percentages,
averages etc. were used for the analysis ofdata.
Findings
The main findings of the study are presented below:
. Most ofthe respondents were aware of soft skills.
However, their level of awareness varied to a
considerable extent. For some ofthe respondents,
soft skills are needed for better performance in
interviews. For others, these meant "a gate way
to better employment". A section of respondents
was of the view that for the personal growth of
an individual, soft skills are one of the most im-
portant components. A few respondents were of
the opinion that soft skills lead to better person-
ality of an individual. Although small, but a sec-
tion of respondents was of the opinion that for
leading a quality life, soft skills are the vital must.
However, there was a degree of consensus
amongst respondents that soft skills underpin
THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF LEARNING. VOLUME 15
value of soft skills as they relate to employability
is largely due to their transferable nature.
Regarding relationship between hard skills and
soft skills, most of the respondents were of the
opinion that both ofthem are interlinked. Several
respondents indicated that soft skills cannot be
easily separated from the discipline specific hard
skills and are equally important as hard skills. A
section of the respondents was of the view that
it is relatively easy to teach discipline specific
hard skills to those who already possess import-
ant soft skills, but it is not so easy to build soft
skills if individuals lack them.
While ranking the important soft skills especially
in today's fast changing techno-economic and
competitive world, almost 100% of the respond-
ents were of the view that the most important
soft skill for any individual is communication
skill. Without effective communication, success
Figure l: Soft Skills for Students
in today's scenario is almost impossible. You
may have excellent knowledge, but unless you
are able to convey that knowledge to others and
convince them, it is of no use. So, effective
communication is the buzzword today, whether
you are at your home, work place and in society
at national level or intemational level. Other five
soft skills which ranked high especially in
today's world of work are problem solving skills,
leadership skills, team work skills, IT skills and
learning to learn skills, though, other soft skills
like creativity and innovation, managing self,
coping with change, initiative and entelprise,
sensitivity towards global, societal and environ-
mental issues, motivation skills etc. are also very
important. Figure 1 presents some of the import-
ant soft skills required to be developed in stu-
dents.
1.?
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* 0.4
q2
Oor}r?I'lnicali}n ft obbm Solvir€
Sk*ts Ski8s
Most of the students were ofthe opinion that soft
skills help in development of increased level of
confidence and understanding, resulting in better
performance during job interviews. In the views
of some of the experts from the world of work,
soft skills lead to better application ofindividu-
tl$*Bls Lsarningi0
Learn Ski$s
+
al's knowledge and skills and adaptability to
change, leading to effective performance in the
work place. A section ofthe teachers felt that for
the holistic development (personal, social and
professional) of students, soft skills play an im-
portant role. Figure 2 shows some ofthe benefits
of soft skills development in students.
Leadership Teamw ork
Skilts Sftils
fiiost lmport nt SottSkilh
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I o.+
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o.2
o.1
0
Figure 2: BensfiE of Soft Skills Elevelopmsnt
hcreas€d Betl,ar Beter Bauet Better Vi/ork
Confldeoce Ferfonrnnce Adaptabffi$ AppFcalionol perforrnance
h hlerviews to Ctranoe K & S
Benetits Ef Soff gkllls DeveloFnrent
MEENU WATS, RAKESH KUMAR WAIS
l-bll6lic
&ort*th
In response to a question as to which is the best
environment for developing soft skills in an indi-
vidual, the opinions of the teachers, HRD experts
and the employers were divergent. While a sec-
tion of the informants was of the view that as
soft skills are needed for better performance in
the world of work, the best place for their devel-
opment is workplace, where these can be de-
veloped as per the needs ofthe job/industry and
are customized. The other group was of the
opinion that the classroom is the ideal learning
gtound, where one can practice altemative ways
of dealing with people, and facilitating leaming,
experimenting and transferring knowledge in an
interactive rather than prescriptive form. It is a
place of learning where one can make mistakes
without losing his face and the job (7).
While deciding about the right time for the devel-
opment of soft skills in students, most of the ex-
perts and teachers were of the opinion that it is
a continuous and life long process. The leaming
experiences at different stages i.e. primary sec-
onda4r, tertiary and higher levels of education
should be integrated in a chronological order to
have cumulative effect. Even the'development
ofsoft skills should come up to the naturalization
stage of learning by the time a student completes
his formal higher education.
The inconsistentway in which soft skills are dealt
in the curriculum of most of the courses has cre-
ated the potential for inconsistent delivery and
assessment outcomes across assessors and across
training courses (8). Most ofthe respondents felt
that soft skills are not clearly described in cur-
riculum documents of most of the courses in
higher education. At the same time, most were
of the view that the coverage of soft skills was
either 'not enough' or 'about right' in the
courses. Respondents were of the view that des-
pite the inclusion of the key competencies in
curriculum of courses, in some, soft skills are
only implied, and that in others, there are essen-
tial skills that they consider to be soft in nature
and important in today's context that have not
been included. A group of experts also commen-
ted, that the assumption that because key compet-
encies are embedded in curriculum of various
courses means that they can be inferred as being
achieved by the mere completion of course, is
sending a wrong message amongst faculty and
students. They were of the view that "soft skills
need to be much more comprehensively ad-
dressed in curriculum documents". They also
need to be more explicitly learned and assessed.
Only then the level of awareness amongst stu-
dents and their understanding be raised leading
to their (soft skills) acceptance as valued assets
by students, employers and industry.
Faculty and experts were of the view that al-
though there can be a number ofapproaches for
developing soft skills in students, but the main
three approaches generally used in institutions
of higher learning were "embedding", "integrat-
ing" and "bolting on" skill components. Research
indicates while in embedding approach, no direct
reference is made to skills development within
a module or subject or group of subjects, promot-
ing the development of discipline specific hard
skills, in integrating approach, skills are de-
veloped in parallel with the core discipline and
the same amount of emphasis is placed on the
development of soft skills as hard skills. The
methodology adopted in 'bolting on' approach
is that skills are developed independently ofthe
core discipline enabling the explicit development
ofstudent's soft transferable skills (5).
In response to a question which are the best
learning methods for developing soft skills, some
of the methods suggested by respondents were
THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF LEARNING. VOLUME 15
lectures, going through examples, seminars and
debates, team working methods, extra-curricular
activities, role playing and demonstration, exper-
iential learning, self assessment and feedback,
computer assisted learning, case sfudies and
problem solving, field visits etc. However, in
terms of ranking of learning methods for devel-
oping soft skills in students, the first five methods
were experiential learning, role-playing and
demonstration, team working methods, case
studies and problem solving and extra-curricular
Figure 3: llfethods for Developing SoftSkilfs in
activities. A section of the respondents was of
the view that no one method is self sufficient for
developing soft skills. These methods must be
used in combination for developing different soft
skills in students. In addition, suitability of a
particular method also depends on individual
student in terms of his previous knowledge and
skills background, learning style, pace and con-
venience etc. Figure 3 presents some of the im-
portant methods of soft skills development in
students.
Students
f
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tr
s
0.9
0.8
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o,6
o.4
VL
R1
Experiential
LearRirrS Rob ftaying Teamworft Case Studies &tra Ortficr.l|ar
It&lhods a $
Methodsfor SoR $kills Eevelopment
When asked to give their opinion regarding the
resource persons who can help students in devel-
oping soft skills, there was no consensus amongst
the respondents. A big section ofthe respondents
was of the view that as the best environment for
developing soft skills amongst students is the
classroom, so the subject specific faculty are the
best resource persons for achieving the above
objective. Amongst this section, a few respond-
ents were of the firm opinion that if the soft skills
have to be developed in students, then firstly
teachers mustbe very clear aboutthe importance
of these, secondly they must acknowledge that
it is every teacher's role to do the same for the
benefit of students and thirdly based on the im-
portance of each soft skill, different leaming
methods may be used, suiting the requirements
of individual students. Putting students in con-
flicting situations by psychologists and behavi-
oural scientists, HRD consultants/experts from
industry can be the other group ofresource per-
sons who can make them understand the implic-
ations of different real life situations and the
ways and means of handling them. A small sec-
tion of the respondents felt that as students leam
a lot from their peer group, the interaction and
feedback from peers can help them in developing
these skills without a challenge to their dignity,
job and morale in the case of their failing in a
particular situation. Figure 4 presents resource
persons for soft skills development in students.
. Almost 100% of the respondents were of the
view that, although, the prime responsibility for
the development of soft skills for personal, social
and professional growth lies with an individual
but higher education institutions, employers and
society as a whole have to play a facilitator's role
by providing a congenial environment for this
purpose with abroader aim of growth and devel-
opment of whole sociefy.
1l
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t
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t
t
I
Regarding the role of industry/world of work in
developing soft skills in students, a group of re-
spondents was of the view that industry should
define skill set as per the local, regional, national
and global requirements and standards which
then must be developed through the projects and
programmes organized in academic instifutions.
A section of the experts felt that as the benefit
of the students' competency is to be taken by the
industry, so theirrole does not end with defining
skills set only but they have to fully collaborate
with academic institutions in designing and con-
ducting programmes and projects, providing
learning experiences, resources in terms of latest
information, machines, equipment, materials and
experts etc.. They must also participate in evalu-
ation, certification and awarding. This will help
students in understanding real life problems,
process and practices and becoming confident
for working in the world of work.
The recording of soft skills development in stu-
dents must be ba^sed on their understanding of
the importance of these in their life and the
knowledge of principles and practices required
fortheir development. The awareness and under-
standing then must be tested in terms of their
aplication of these skills. A certificate indicating
tbe altainment of these soft skills should then be
grven to studenS. This certificate must be recog-
nizrAby the industry and the world of work.
The data collected from the higher education
colleges of Chandigarh indicate that the import-
ance of soft skills development in students has
been recognized by all of these institutes. How-
ever, the efforts are only limited to creating
awareness amongst students about the need of
soft skills for their future growth and develop-
MEENU WATS. RAKESH KUMAR WATS
ment. In most of the institutions, the development
ofsoft skills is being looked after by the Place-
ment Cells under the head Personality Develop-
ment. The major objective is to make the students
suitable for job interviews.
Most of the institutions surveyed organize lec-
tures and workshops for the development of soft
skills in students. Most of the progralnmes organ-
ized are non-credit based. The design of the
prograrnmes is not based on any scientific prin-
ciples and the content is also unstructured. The
development of communication skills, mainly
verbal, is one of the major components of most
of these programmes. Many of the colleges have
also developed language laboratories for devel-
oping communication skills in their students.
A programme entitled C-TOSS (Chandigarh
Training on Soft Skills) initiated by Chandigarh
Administrationunder the aegis of SPIC Microsoft
is also running in most of the colleges but its
catchment in terms of students enrolment is very
limited. The design of this programme has been
done based on the needs of the IT industry, one
of the biggest sectors of employment in the
country. This programme has six modules ffoice
and Accent, Communication Skills, Customer
Service, Global Culture, Telesales, and Computer
proficiency) and is highly structured. The pro-
gramme is conducted by private professional
HRD companies.
In a few instances some of the companies like
IBM etc. have short listed students for employ-
ment and are themselves conducting industry
specific and customized soft skills development
programmes for developing manpower as per
their needs.
The data collected during the study indicate that
in most ofthe institutions methodology used for
Figure 4: Resource PerEons for Developing Soft skills
I
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o.
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t
0.s
0.8
0.7
0.8
0.5
0.4
0.3
0.2
0.1
0Suhject Sp. Faculty HRD Consultants Expeds from
Industry
Best Resoutce Persorr *:*-=*
Peer Group
THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF LEARNING. VOLUME 15
development of soft skills in students is creating
awareness through lectures and demonstrations.
However, under C-TOSS programme and in
some of the other industry specific programmes
team working methods, debates, group discus-
sions, role playing, case studies, problem solving,
experiential learning, field visits etc. are some
ofthe other approaches used for developing soft
skills in students.
As in most of the institutions, the prografirmes
for soft skills development are limited to creation
of awareness and the programmes are non-credit
based, no specific methodology is adopted to
evaluate their development in students. Howevel
under C-TOSS programme a computer-based
test is conducted to evaluate the development of
these in students. The test was earlier conducted
by SPIC Microsoft. Now, from the year 2007
onwards this test is named'National Assessment
of Competency (NAC)" and is conducted in
collaboration with software association NAS-
SCOM.
Almost 100% of the respondents were of the
view that the creation of awareness about the
importance of soft skills in today's competitive
world was one of the biggest impacts of these
soft skills development programmes organized
in various institutions in Chandigarh. Many stu-
dents were of the view that these programmes
have resulted in enhanced confidence leading to
better performance in job interviews. A section
ofteachers was of the view that better awareness
shall lead to better application of knowledge and
skills, adaptability to change and thereby better
job performance.
The records of the placement cells of most of the
institutions and discussions with the faculty of
placement cells indicate that the students who
took specific interest in the development of these
skills in them and also adopted alternative means
for their development were better performers in
job interviews conducted by various companies
and they also got selected for the jobs.'
Most of the responding students were of view
that the programmes organised by the institutions
were sufficient for creation of awareness about
the importance of soft skills in today's scenario.
However, a lot needs to be done regarding their
nature, duration, design, content, methodology
and conduct. A professional approach needs to
be adopted in various aspects of these pro-
grammes. In addition, these progtammes must
be conducted in collaboration and partnership
with industry for making them more relevant,
valid and recognizable in today's context.
The data collected from institutes conducting
engineering degree programmes and some ofthe
other professional courses indicate that soft skills
component is embedded in the curriculum of
these programmes and skills are expected to be
developed in association with other hard technic-
al skills. However, the development of soft skills
is dependent on the individual teachers' and their
understanding of the depth and breadth of cur-
riculum and the objectives of each subject. In
addition to their being embedded in curriculum,
some of the courses specifically dealing with
concepts, basic principles and practices of soft
skills also form the part of the curriculum. These
specific courses are generally dealt by the teach-
ers of Humanities and Social Sciences. One of
the institutions (Punjab Engineering College,
Chandigarh) has incorporated design courses in
the curriculum of different engineering pro-
grammes to inculcate the skills of analytical and
logical thinking, creativity, problem solving etc..
Besides above, laboratory courses have also been
made integral part of curriculum, for students to
make decisions at each stage from formulating
objectives to analysing the results and working
in groups. For developing communication skills
seminars, group discussions, debates etc. form
the features of teaching-learning process. For
making the students sawy-users of information
technology, ICT (information and communica-
tion technology) is being used as an effective
tool to deliver content.
Gonclusions
The changing techno-economic scenario and the ever
increasing importance of information and communic-
ation technologies in this globalised world have led
to changed requirements in the human resource pro-
file. The earlier emphasis of competent human re-
source with high quality hard skills has changed to
hard skills along with proficiency in soft skills. The
education sector which is the backbone for the devel-
opment of competent human resource for any coun-
try's growth and development cannot remain unaf-
fected by this major shift in the employment sector.
Institutions especially ofhigher learning have started
understanding the importance of developing soft
skills in students for making them relevant to the
changedrequirements of the world of work. This has
been shown by this study, which has been conducted
in Chandigarh, one of most of modern cities of the
country, an educational hub for almost all types of
courses, a knowledge city of future and a trendsetter
for the country in all aspects of life. The findings of
the study indicate that most of the str:dents, especially
those studying in higher education courses, are aware
of the impqrtance of soft skills in today's competitive
world. Although, the level ofunderstanding amongst
studenB varies, but one point oi consensus is there
that without appropriate soft skills, survival and
grouth in today's competitive world is not possible
as these skills lead to better performance in work
place. Seeing the value of soft skills development in
students, most of institutions have initiated projects
and programmes for developing the same. These
projects and programmes are mainly limited to cre-
ation ofawareness through lectures and workshops.
Most of these programmes are unstructured, short
term. non-credited based and ill linked with the dis-
cipline of individual's study, leading to lack of enthu-
siasm and motivation amongst students undergoing
these programmes. The responsibility for the conduct
of these programmes mostly lies with a few individu-
als, especially the faculty/officials looking after the
job and placement services in the academic institu-
tions. Other teachers' are either not appreciative of
their role in developing soft skills amongst students
or are not clear about the nomenclafure of soft skills,
their interlinkages with hard skills in curriculum
documents, methods, media and approaches needed
for their development and evaluation and assessment
mechanisms. In addition to the above programmes
running in the institutions of Chandigarh, a few small
but significant experiments like C-TOSS (Chandigarh
Training of Soft Skills) by SPIC Microsoft and by
other companies like IBM etc. are noteworthy ex-
amples as the programmes under these are relevant
as per the needs of industry (especially IT and IT
enabled services). structured and modular and use
appropriate approaches for instructional delivery and
assessment. But due to their small access, the impact
of these programmes is very minute.
Recommendations
Based on the review ofliterature, data collected and
discussions and observations made during the study,
a few recommendations are being put forward for
making the mission of soft skills development in
students highly effective, efficient and responsive
for the growth and development of an individual,
society and country in general. These are:
l. Developing soft skills in students should be the
mandate of each institution. The performance
of the institutions should not be judged only on
the discipline specific hard skills competency
of their students but also the proficiency of
students in terms of effective communication,
interpersonal relations, working in teams, adapt-
ability to change, capability of solving prob-
lems, self awareness and management etc.
2. For making soft skills development prograrnmes
relevant, industry must be involved in defining
skill set, designing interlinked curriculum, im-
plementing curriculum through various leaming
MEENU WAIS. RAKESH KUMAR WATS
experiences, evaluation, assessment and certi-
fication of competency for better acceptability
in market.
A common theme for teaching and learning of
generic skills (soft skills) is that the success
depends crucially on them being made explicit
for students. Leaving them implicit, as they are
in many traditional courses, does little to encour-
age learning and development (10). The cur-
riculum of most of the courses need to be made
as explicit as possible leading to clarity ofex-
periences to be provided to students through
appropriate methods, media and approaches for
developing both discipline specific hard skills
and appropriate soft skills. Even the evaluation
and assessment mechanisms need to be made
more detailed making expectations from teach-
ers and students very clear and without any
ambiguity. In addition, the assessments must
be 'educationally sound; valid, adequately reli-
able, cost effective and useful forjob selection
and career planning (1 l).
Curricula ofcourses need to include and integ-
rate cognitive knowledge with soft skills leading
to a proper linkage between theory and practice
for developing soft skills in students. Even some
course modules that can meet these objectives
need to be developed.
The skills and expertise of faculty to develop
and implement curricula that interweave soft
and hard skills need to be continuously de-
veloped through varied leaming processes incor-
porating the practices and processes ofindustry
and real life.
Both bolt on and integrating teaching techniques
should be used in consonance for effective de-
velopment of soft skills in students. While bolt
on approach shall lead to explicit development
of appropriate skills as per the customized needs
of specific industry, it will also provide oppor-
tunities to students to develop their abilities as
self-assessors for personal and professional
growth. lntegrating approach of soft skills de-
velopment shall be highly relevant if skills de-
velopment is to incorporate knowledge and un-
derstanding, analysis, creativity and evaluation
for better real life application of skills in work-
place. So, for making soft skills development
programmes more effective, in addition to de-
velopment of these skills along with discipline
specific hard skills, a few courses maybe incor-
porated in the curriculum ofall the disciplines.
These courses should be credit based. Relevant
methods and media for instructional delivery
and evaluation and assessment mechanisms
should be used. The certificate indicative of at-
3
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5
6
t0 THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF LEARNING, VOLUME 15 I
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tainment of specific competency should be
given to students.
7. Academic institutions should establish well
developed systems for informing learners about
how soft skills would be taught and assessed.
Courses should be structured, activities de_
veloped and requirements outlined to challense
students to embrace interdependence and thii<
critically, systematically and strategically in
preparation for becoming valuable organization_
al contributors.
References
l' costin, GP""Legitimate subjective observation (LSo) and the Evaluation of soft skills in worlqlace,,,
The spotlight on the provider conference, Albury New South wales, 2002.
2' Chandra, Ash oka,"Emerging Challenges in TVET in Manpower and skill Developmen /,, National Seminar
on Business and Soft Skills Development ower, NITTTR, Chandigarh (India), 2006.
3. Flynn, Rosalie,"Graduate Employability paper,,, precision ConJultancy, Melbourne,
Australia,2006.
4' ]rz\:ri:) Education with Reference to rr Retated Disciptines ; rs
2006. Journal of Information Technology Education, Vol. 5,
5' chadha' Deesha andNicholas, Glll,"Teaching Transferable shlts to (Jndergraduate Engineering Students:
Recognizing the value of Embedded and Bolt-on Approaches", International Journal oiEngineering Edu-
cation, Yol.22, No. l, Great Britain, 2006.
6' ting Soft Skitls in a BME Curriculum",Engineering
7. erican Society for Engineering Education,ZOO+.
veloping Soft Skills in Higher Education,, pLA notes,
8' clayton, Berwyn et'al',"Assessing and Certifuing Generic skitts: what is Happening in vocational Edu-
cation and Training?", National Centre for Vocational Education Research O{CVER), NCVER Ltd.,
Australia,2003.
9 ' Saxton lls Generic Skilts in Technical Education',,lndian Society
for Tec N VI, NO. 2, New Delhi, 1996.
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Role of Generic Skills,,, The Business/Il
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or a Track into the Never Never,,, Mew of the Future
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About the Authors
Dr. Meenu Wats
orking experience of more than l g years of teaching
and XII classes in schools. She has many research
and personal guidance and counselling to students.
music, debates etc. She has participated in nationar lev activities like dance, dramas,
level. Her hobbies incrude singing, ristening to music uring her studies at University
Dr. Rakesh Kumar Wats
TTR,Chandigarh.
... Emerging literature shows that now, more than ever before, employers value team work, communication, and other 'soft skills' over academic ability (i.e., grades) [1][2][3]. Wats and Wats (2009) identified the most essential soft skills as communication, problem-solving, leadership, teamwork, IT skills, and learning to learn skills [4]. In recent practice, postsecondary engineering educators have paid increasing attention to developing students' soft (social) skills with the explicit purpose of readying future graduates for professional practice [5]. ...
... Emerging literature shows that now, more than ever before, employers value team work, communication, and other 'soft skills' over academic ability (i.e., grades) [1][2][3]. Wats and Wats (2009) identified the most essential soft skills as communication, problem-solving, leadership, teamwork, IT skills, and learning to learn skills [4]. In recent practice, postsecondary engineering educators have paid increasing attention to developing students' soft (social) skills with the explicit purpose of readying future graduates for professional practice [5]. ...
... Although the undergraduate engineering curriculum most certainly includes soft skill development, soft skills are often taught as an 'after thought' or as less important than technical skill development [9]. This lack of attention does not bode well when the "literature suggests that hard skills contribute to only 15% of one's success while the remaining 85% is made by soft skills" [4]. Therefore, a question remains as to how engineering instructors can best teach the kinds of soft skills in a manner that could be applied in temporary cooperative education (co-op) settings or for future workplace experiences. ...
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Legitimate subjective observation (LSo) and the Evaluation of soft skills in worlqlace
  • G P L' Costin
l' costin, GP""Legitimate subjective observation (LSo) and the Evaluation of soft skills in worlqlace,,, The spotlight on the provider conference, Albury New South wales, 2002.
Emerging Challenges in TVET in Manpower and skill Developmen /, National Seminar on Business and Soft Skills Development ower
  • Ash Chandra
  • Oka
Chandra, Ash oka,"Emerging Challenges in TVET in Manpower and skill Developmen /,, National Seminar on Business and Soft Skills Development ower, NITTTR, Chandigarh (India), 2006.
Teaching Transferable shlts to (Jndergraduate Engineering Students: Recognizing the value of Embedded and Bolt-on Approaches
  • Rosalie Flynn
Flynn, Rosalie,"Graduate Employability paper,,, precision ConJultancy, Melbourne, Australia,2006. 4' ]rz\:ri:) Education with Reference to rr Retated Disciptines ; rs 2006. Journal of Information Technology Education, Vol. 5, 5' chadha' Deesha andNicholas, Glll,"Teaching Transferable shlts to (Jndergraduate Engineering Students: Recognizing the value of Embedded and Bolt-on Approaches", International Journal oiEngineering Education, Yol.22, No. l, Great Britain, 2006.
Assessing and Certifuing Generic skitts: what is Happening in vocational Education and Training?
veloping Soft Skills in Higher Education,, pLA notes, 8' clayton, Berwyn et'al',"Assessing and Certifuing Generic skitts: what is Happening in vocational Education and Training?", National Centre for Vocational Education Research O{CVER), NCVER Ltd., Australia,2003. 9 ' Saxton lls