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“Lost in translation”. Soft skills development in European countries

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The world of work is changing profoundly, at a time when the global economy is not creating a sufficient number of jobs. Many documents issued by the EU and various researches, carried out by companies and human resources experts, point out that the so-called “soft” skills are closely connected with employability, particularly for young people entering the labour market. At present, EU countries have different methodologies and approaches to the teaching and assessment of soft skills. Another obstacle is represented by the absence of a common language. There are different ways of naming ‘soft skills’, different definitions of them, different manners of classifying and clustering them. The article explores some classifications of soft skills and presents a collection of best practices and methods for teaching and learning them at University level, taking into account different perspectives and basing on the results of two European projects focused on this topic. The final goal is to provide an analysis aimed at the identification of the most important soft skills needed for a successful transition from University education to the labour market. The analysis includes a brief chronological excursus on relevant studies on the subject, a review of current literature on employability skills, quantitative (surveys) and qualitative (focus groups) researches from Europe and Third Countries, identifying the range of soft skills relevant for newly graduates. The aim of this overview is to enhance understanding of soft skills and to indicate key areas for soft skill development at University level.
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389
Tuning Journal for Higher Education
© University of Deusto. ISSN: 2340-8170 • ISSN-e: 2386-3137. Volume 3, Issue No. 2, May 2016, 389-427
http://www.tuningjournal.org/
“Lost in translation”. Soft skills development in European
countries*
Maria Cinque**
doi: 10.18543/tjhe-3(2)-2016pp389-427
Abstract: The world of work is changing profoundly, at a time when the global
economy is not creating a sufcient number of jobs. Many documents issued by the
EU and various researches, carried out by companies and human resources experts,
point out that the so-called “soft” skills are closely connected with employability,
particularly for young people entering the labour market. At present, EU countries
have different methodologies and approaches to the teaching and assessment of soft
skills. Another obstacle is represented by the absence of a common language. There
are different ways of naming ‘soft skills’, different denitions of them, different
manners of classifying and clustering them. The article explores some classications
of soft skills and presents a collection of best practices and methods for teaching and
learning them at University level, taking into account different perspectives and
basing on the results of two European projects focused on this topic. The nal goal is
to provide an analysis aimed at the identication of the most important soft skills
needed for a successful transition from University education to the labour market.
The analysis includes a brief chronological excursus on relevant studies on the
subject, a review of current literature on employability skills, quantitative (surveys)
and qualitative (focus groups) researches from Europe and Third Countries,
identifying the range of soft skills relevant for newly graduates. The aim of this
overview is to enhance understanding of soft skills and to indicate key areas for soft
skill development at University level.
Keywords: soft skills; employability; university; terminology; taxonomies; best
practices.
159
* This work builds — partially — on the results of two projects, funded with support from
the European Commission: the ModEs project (2009-12; Lifelong Learning Programme) and
eLene4work (2015-18; Erasmus+ Programme). I thank all the partners of these projects for
their precious work and support.
** Maria Cinque (m.cinque1@lumsa.it) is Associate professor of Didactics, Teaching
methodologies and Special Pedagogy at the Department of Human Studies of LUMSA University
in Rome. Her research interests focus on teaching/learning methodologies, soft skills development
and innovative learning environments. More details are provided at the end of this article.
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© University of Deusto. ISSN: 2340-8170 • ISSN-e: 2386-3137. Volume 3, Issue No. 2, May 2016, 389-427
doi: 10.18543/tjhe-3(2)-2016pp389-427 • http://www.tuningjournal.org/ 160
I. Introduction
In the last few years many studies, research reports, surveys, even
newspapers articles highlighted a problem of the labour market: they
reported a skill shortage among employers. In the USA, in 2011, more than
600,000 positions in manufacturing went unfullled due to a skill shortage in
employees and this skill shortage concerned mainly non-technical skills,
work ethic, punctuality and professionalism.1
According to the ManPower Group’s Talent Shortage Survey (2012),2
nearly 20% of employers considered the lack of soft skills as one of the key
reasons they couldn’t hire needed employees. The American survey Career
Builder, conducted in 2014 over a sample of 2,138 human resource managers,
indicate that soft skills are just as important as hard skills, ranking at the rst
position the skill “work ethic”, with 73% of preferences, at the second
position “reliability”, again with 73% of answers, and third “positive
attitude”, with 72%.3
In a research carried out by McKinsey,4 that involved more than 8,000
people in eight European countries (France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal,
Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom), one-third of employers said that
lack of skills is causing major business problems in the form of cost, quality,
or time. Furthermore skill gaps cause the most problems in countries with the
highest youth unemployment (i.e. Italy, Greece, and Spain). A major reason
that students do not gain skills employers are seeking is that all three
constituents — students, employers, and educators are not speaking the
same gurative language. The report shows that universities and companies
1 Deloitte, Boiling Point? The Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing, 2011, accessed March,
31, 2016, http://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/manufacturing/us-
indprod-pip-2011-skills-gap-report-01142011.pdf.
2 Manpower Group, Talent Shortage Survey, 2012, accessed March, 31, 2016, http://
www.manpowergroup.us/campaigns/talent-shortage-2012/pdf/2012_Talent_Shortage_
Survey_Results_US_FINALFINAL.pdf.
3 Many studies, in Italy too, reported a skill mismatch depending on the educational
mismatch. Employers often claim that university graduates are well prepared in their
disciplines, but lack general competences. Practical skills are lacking among graduates. Among
them: ISFOL (Istituto per la formazione e il lavoro), Rapporto ISFOL 2012. Le competenze per
l’occupazione e la crescita (Roma: ISFOL, 2012). IULM, CRUI, Centromarca, Osservatorio
sulle professioni. Prima indagine sulla formazione dei neolaureati ed esigenze d’impresa
(Milano: Università IULM, 2012).
4 Mona Mourshed, Jigar Patel, and Katrin Suder, Education to Employment: Getting
Europe’s Youth into Work, McKinsey & Company, accessed March, 31, 2016, http://www.
mckinsey.com/industries/social-sector/our-insights/converting-education-to-employment-
in-europe.
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doi: 10.18543/tjhe-3(2)-2016pp389-427 • http://www.tuningjournal.org/161
often move in “parallel universes”: while the majority of education providers
(74%) are condent that their graduates are prepared for work, yet only 35%
of employers have the same opinion. As far as young people are concerned,
only 42% believe they have received adequate training for work, and only
30% nds temporary employment after graduation.
The report Modernisation of Higher Education in Europe: Access,
Retention and Employability, published in 2014,5 highlights that, while
employability of newly graduates is a topic of considerable priority in higher
education policy debates, the approaches and levels of engagement differ
considerably. Some countries conate employability with employment by
taking an employment-centred approach that focuses primarily on graduate
employment rates. Others put the accent on skills development, emphasising
the competences relevant for the labour market that need to be acquired
through higher education. Several countries combine these two perspectives.
Skill development is one of the four main areas of the European Union’s
agship initiative An agenda for new skills and new jobs,6 and the focus of
the more recent Rethinking education strategy. Investing in skills for better
socio-economic outcomes.7 According to those documents, companies need
a more skilled workforce and opportunities should be given to young people
to develop those soft skills, such as entrepreneurial skills, coping skills (i.e.
the capacity to deal with a problem in a creative way), learning to learn and
other skills that will help university students to make a successful transition
from full-time education to entering the labour market.
One of the strategic actions for development, recommended by those EU
documents, is the university curricula reform to tailor them with the requests
coming from the labour market. Nevertheless, relevant weaknesses are still
detectable. In fact, the programs of most European universities are still
rooted on teaching traditional scientic skills rather than paying attention to
soft and complementary skills.
In this article, basing on a literature review and on the results of two
European projects, we focus on the identication of the most important soft
5 European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, Modernisation of Higher Education in
Europe: Access, Retention and Employability 2014, Eurydice Report (Luxembourg:
Publications Ofce of the European Union, 2014).
6 European Commission, An agenda for new skills and new jobs in Europe: Pathways
towards full employment, 2012, accessed March, 31, 2016, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-
content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52010DC0682&from=EN.
7 EC (European Commission), Rethinking education strategy: Investing in skills for
better socio-economic outcomes, 2012, accessed March, 31, 2016, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/
legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52012DC0669&from=EN.
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skills needed for a successful transition from University education to the
labour market.
The questions we want to answer are the following:
1. What are soft skills (how can they be defined) and what are the
different ways of calling and clustering them?
2. What are the skills most required by the labour market and which
initiatives have being carried out in different European countries to
enhance soft skills development at the undergraduate level and to
foster employability?
3. Which methodologies can be used to teach and learn soft skills at
undergraduate level?
The rst part of this article provides a brief chronological excursus of
relevant studies on the theme of soft skills, in order to outline the dominant
theoretical approaches to the theme. In the second paragraph, the results of
quantitative (surveys) and qualitative (focus groups) analysis, carried out
during two European projects, are illustrated in order to highlight which soft
skills are mostly required by the labour market. The third part presents a
comparative analysis of the state of the art of soft skills researches and
initiatives in different European countries. Finally, the article presents a
collection of best practices and methods for teaching and learning soft skills
at University level, taking into account different perspectives — mainly the
pedagogical, philosophical and psychological ones and mapping some
best practices in halls of residence.
II. Relevant studies towards taxonomy of soft skills
II.1. Different names and denitions
There are various ways of naming soft skills, also called social skills,
transversal competences, social competences, generic competences, even basic
and life skills. Some international research projects or institutions prefer the
term “21st century skills”, whereas the Organisation for Economic Co-operation
and Development (OECD) uses the terms “key competencies” (2003)8 and,
8 OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), Denition and
Selection of Competencies: Theoretical and Conceptual Foundations (DeSeCo), Summary of
the nal report Key Competencies for a Successful Life and a Well-functioning Society (Paris:
OECD Publishing, 2003).
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more recently, “skills for social progress” (2015).9 In Europe different countries
use different denominations, as illustrated in Table 1.
Table 1
Different names for soft skills in some European countries
Countries Denominations
Austria Schlüsselkompetenzen (key competencies)
Belgium Belgium fr.: compétences transversales. (transversal competencies)
Belgium nl.: Sleutelcompetenties (key competencies)
Denmark Nøglekompetence (key competencies)
England key skills (England, Ireland)
core skills (Scotland)
life skills, key transferable skills, cross competencies
France compétences transversales
Germany Schlüsselkompetenzen (key competencies), übergreifende
Kompetenzen (general competencies)
Italy Competenze trasversali
Portugal competências essencias (essential competencies), competências
transversais ou genéricas (transversal or generic competencies)
Spain competencias genéricas
Some authors identify soft skills with EI (Emotional Intelligence) or EQ
(Emotional Quotient), i.e. the “emotional side” of human beings in opposition
to the IQ (Intelligent Quotient).10 One might debate if soft skills like “critical
thinking” or “problem solving” might be considered emotional skills. Some
authors call them “non cognitive skills”11 but, as a matter of fact, soft skills
9 OECD, Skills for Social Progress. The Power of Social and Emotional Skills. OECD
Skills Studies (Paris: OECD Publishing, 2015).
10 André Iland, Soft skills. Be professionally proactive (Iland Business Pages, 2013).
Verma Shalini, Enhancing Employability @ Soft Skills (Chandigarth-Delhi-Chennai: Pearson,
2013).
11 James J. Heckman and Yona Rubinstein, “The Importance of Noncognitive Skills:
Lessons from GED Testing Program”, The American Economic Review 91(2), Papers and
Proceedings of the Hundred Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the American Economic Association
(May, 2001): 145-149.
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include both social/interpersonal skills and methodological skills or meta-
competences, i.e. the capacity to work on competences, to reframe and
transfer them from one field to another, even from informal to formal
learning. Soft skills must also be conceptualized in a broad sense, as
competences transferable from job to job, from company to company, from
one economic sector to another.12
A further issue is connected with the doubt if those skills might be
trained or can be considered “innate”. According to Heckman and Kautz13
“soft skills [are] personality traits, goals, motivations, and preferences that
are valued in the labour market, in school, and in many other domains
[…]”. They are “a mix of dispositions, understandings, attributes and
practices”.14
Knight and Page15 dene soft skills as “wicked competences,” as it is
very difcult to dene them, because they can assume different forms in
different contexts and they keep developing along the entire lifetime.16
In the Mass project, soft skills were dened as “intra- and inter-personal
(socio-emotional) skills, essential for personal development, social
participation and workplace success”.17
Haselberger and other authors, within the ModEs project, proposed
another denition:18
Soft Skills represent a dynamic combination of cognitive and meta-
cognitive skills, interpersonal, intellectual and practical skills. Soft skills
12 EC (European Commission), Transferability of Skills across Economic Sectors: Role
and Importance for Employment at European Level (Luxembourg, Publications Ofce of the
European Union, 2011).
13 James J. Heckman and Tim Kautz, “Hard Evidence on Soft Skills,” Labour Economics
19, nº 4 (2013): 452.
14 Mantz Yorke, Employability in higher education: What it is — what it is not, Learning
and employability series 1 (York, UK: The Higher Education Academy, 2006), 26.
15 Peter Knight and Anna Page, The Assessment of “Wicked” Competences, Report to the
Practice Based Professional Learning Centre, 2007, accessed March, 31, 2016, http://www.
open.ac.uk/opencetl/sites/www.open.ac.uk.opencetl/les/les/ecms/web-content/knight-and-
page-(2007)-The-assessment-of-wicked-competences.pdf.
16 Cristiano Ciappei and Maria Cinque, Soft skills per il governo dell’agire (Milano:
FrancoAngeli, 2014).
17 Konstantinos Kechagias, ed., Teaching and Assessing Soft Skills (Thessaloniki: 1st
Second Chance School of Thessaloniki, 2011), 33.
18 David Haselberger, Petra Oberhuemer, Eva Pérez, Maria Cinque, and Fabio Davide
Capasso, Mediating Soft Skills at Higher Education Institutions (ModEs project: Lifelong
Learning Programme. 2012), 67, accessed March, 31, 2016, http://www.euca.eu/en/prs/modes-
handbook.aspx.
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help people to adapt and behave positively so that they can deal effectively
with the challenges of their professional and everyday life.
We can notice in this denition the expression “dynamic combination”
that, as acknowledged by the authors, comes from the Tuning denition of
competences:
Competences represent a dynamic combination of knowledge, understanding,
skills and abilities. Fostering competences is the object of educational
programmes. Competences will be formed in various course units and
assessed at different stages.19
This might lead to a misunderstanding concerning the possible
overlapping of the two terms. As a matter of fact, “skill” and “competence”
are often used interchangeably, but they are not necessarily synonymous.
The difference between skill and competence was illustrated by the
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the
DeSeCo Project:
While the concept of competence refers to the ability to meet demands of a
high degree of complexity, and implies complex action systems […] The
term skill is used to designate the ability to use one’s knowledge with
relative ease to perform relatively simple tasks. We recognize that the line
between competence and skill is somewhat blurry, but the conceptual
difference between these terms is real.20
Sometimes skills are defined as the “visible” and/or “behavioural”
components of a competence. As highlighted by EUCEN Glossary, “skills”
indicate the ability to apply knowledge and use know-how to complete tasks
and solve problems.21 In the context of the European Qualifications
Framework, competence is described in terms of responsibility and autonomy
while skills are described as cognitive (involving the use of logical, intuitive
and creative thinking) or practical (involving manual dexterity and the use of
methods, materials, tools and tools and instruments).22
19 Tuning Educational Structures in Europe, Competences, accessed March, 31, 2016,
http://www.unideusto.org/tuningeu/competences.html.
20 Dominique S. Rychen and Laura H. Salganik (eds.), Denition and selection of Key
Competencies (Gottingen, Germany: Hogrefe & Huber Publishers, 2000), 10.
21 Glossary — Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23
April 2008 on the establishment of the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong
learning accessed March, 31, 2016, http://www.eucen.eu/EQFpro/GeneralDocs/FilesFeb09/
GLOSSARY.pdf.
22 https://ec.europa.eu/ploteus/en/content/descriptors-page.
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II.2. Classications
There are different ways of naming soft skills (sometimes called
competences or even learning outcomes), different denitions of them, and
different manners of classifying and clustering them. Furthermore, the theme
of soft skills or “non technical” skills — sometimes overlaps and
intersects already known concepts, like “life skills”, “generic competences”,
“key competences”, etc.
In Table 2 a chronological synthesis of some frameworks is presented, in
order to outline the different approaches to the theme of soft skills. It
synthesizes key studies and their ndings emerging through different stages,
which help illuminate how the vision of those skills has evolved over time. It
also offers insights into how this evolution specically relates to studies in
different elds, conducted in different ways and with different theoretical
approaches.
The main frameworks are the following: life skills (WHO);23 transversal
competences (ISFOL);24 key competencies for a successful life and a well-
functioning society (OECD);25 key competences for lifelong learning (UE);26
generic competences (Tuning);27 21st century skills (OECD);28 future work
skills (IFTF);29 and skills for social progress (OECD).30
23 WHO (World Health Organization), Life Skills Education in Schools. Skills for Life, 1
(Genève: WHO, 1993).
24 ISFOL (Istituto per la formazione e l’orientamento al lavoro), Competenze trasversali
e comportamento organizzativo. Le abilità di base nel lavoro che cambia (Milano:
FrancoAngeli, 1994).
ISFOL, Unità capitalizzabili e crediti formativi. I repertori sperimentali (Milano:
FrancoAngeli, 1998).
25 Rychen and Salganik, eds., Key Competencies
26 EU (European Union), Key Competences for Life Long Learning, Recommendation the
European Parliament and the Council of 18th December 2006, Ofcial Journal of the European
Union (2006/962/EC), L394/10-18, accessed March, 31, 2016, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-
content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex:32006H0962.
27 Julia Gonzalez, Robert Wagenaar, eds., Universities’ contribution to the Bologna
Process. An introduction, 2nd Edition (Bilbao: Publicaciones de la Universidad de Deusto,
2008), accessed March, 31, 2016, http://www.unideusto.org/tuningeu/images/stories/
Publications/ENGLISH_BROCHURE_FOR_WEBSITE.pdf.
28 Katerina Ananiadou and Magdalena Claro, “21st Century Skills and Competences for
New Millennium Learners in OECD Countries”, OECD Education Working Papers, 41 (2009),
OECD Publishing, accessed March, 31, 2016, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/218525261154.
29 IFTF (Institute for the Future), Future work skills 2020, 2011, accessed March, 31,
2016, http://www.iftf.org/system/files/deliverable/SR-1382A%20UPRI%20future%20
work%20skills_sm.pdf.
30 OECD, Skills for Social Progress, 33.
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Table 2
Relevant studies toward a taxonomy of skills
Organization Name Skills
WHO (World
Health
Organization)
— 1993
Life skills decision-making and problem-solving;
creative thinking and critical thinking;
communication and interpersonal
skills;
self-awareness and empathy;
coping with emotions and coping with
stress.
ISFOL (Istituto
per lo
Sviluppo della
Formazione
Professionale
dei Lavoratori)
— 1994/1998
Transversal skills Useful to:
diagnose the nature of the
environment and task (mainly
cognitive skills);
relate to people and issues of a
specific context (interpersonal or
social skills, which is the emotional
skill set, cognitive and behavioural
styles, but also communication skills);
address, that is to “face, cope,
predispose to deal with the
environment and the task, both
mentally and emotionally…take
action on a problem with the best
chance of solving it” (be able to set
goals, to develop strategies, and to
build and implement action plans).
OECD
(Organisation
for Economic
Co-operation
and
Development)
— 2003
Key
competencies
for a successful
life and a
well-functioning
society
using tools interactively, that includes
the capacity to use language, symbols
and texts interactively, use knowledge
and information interactively, use
technology interactively;
interacting in socially homogenous
group, i.e. relate well to others, co-
operate, work in teams, manage and
resolve conflicts;
acting autonomously, includes
key competencies that empower
individuals to manage their lives in
meaningful and responsible ways by
exercising control over their living and
working conditions (for example, form
and conduct life plans and personal
projects, defend and assert rights,
interests, limits and needs
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Organization Name Skills
EU (European
Union) — 2006
Key
competences
for lifelong
learning
communication in the mother
tongue;
communication in foreign
languages;
mathematical competence and
basic competences in science and
technology;
digital competence;
learning to learn;
social and civic competences;
sense of initiative and
entrepreneurship;
cultural awareness and expression.
Tuning
Educational
Structures
— 2008
Generic
competences
instrumental competences,
i.e. cognitive abilities, methodological
abilities, technological abilities and
linguistic abilities;
interpersonal competences,
i.e. individual abilities like social
skills (social interaction
and co-operation);
systemic competences, i.e. abilities
and skills concerning whole systems
(combination of understanding,
sensibility and knowledge;
prior acquisition of instrumental
and interpersonal competences
required).
OECD — 2009 21st century
skills
Information — “Information as
source” (searching, selecting,
evaluating and organizing)
and “Information as product”
(restructuring and modelling of
information and the development of
own ideas/knowledge);
Communication — “Effective
communication” (sharing and
transmitting the results or outputs
of information) and “Collaboration
and virtual interaction” (reflecting
on others’ work, creation of
communities);
Ethics — “Social responsibility”
(applying criteria for a responsible use
at personal and social levels).
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Organization Name Skills
IFTF (Institute
for the Future)
— 2011
Future work
skills 2020
sense making;
social intelligence;
novel and adaptive thinking;
cross cultural competency;
computational thinking;
new media literacy;
transdisciplinarity;
design mindset;
cognitive load management;
virtual collaboration.
II.3. Analysis and comparison of the frameworks
As we have seen, there are a number of different ways to identify soft
skills, different ways of classifying and clustering them. We can identify
some differences among the different clusters presented, in particular among
“generic skills”, “key skills/competences” and “basic skills”.
The rst observation is that “generic skills” are skills that are applicable
and useful in various contexts, and thus they can be supposedly transferred
among different work occupations. They include soft skills and additional
abilities, such as literacy, numeracy, technology use etc. Soft skills are
considered a subset of generic skills.
The expression “key competencies” refers to those generic skills that
warrant special recognition for their outstanding importance and applicability
to the various areas of human life (educational and occupational, personal
and social). Indeed, the adjectives ‘generic’ and ‘key’ are sometimes used as
synonyms. In one of its papers, the Information Network on Education in
Europe, Eurydice, outlines its position as follows:
Despite their differing conceptualisation and interpretation of the term in
question, the majority of experts seem to agree that for a competence to
deserve attributes such as ‘key’, ‘core’, ‘essential’ or ‘basic’, it must be
necessary and benecial to any individual and to society as a whole.31
“Basic skills” are not the same as “key competencies”. Most experts usually
talk about “basic skills” when referring to the sub-group of generic or key
competencies that are instrumentally essential in a given culture for every person
and job, and particularly as we use ‘basic’ skills to communicate with one
31 Eurydice, Key competencies (Brussels: Eurydice, 2002).
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another and for continous learning. Classic examples of basic skills are: carrying
out basic arithmetical calculations (adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing),
and reading and writing in one’s mother tongue. Since the 1990s, at least two
more basic skills, the outcomes of both economic globalisation and accelerated
technical progress, have come to the fore: speaking foreign languages and using
electronic Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).
Different generic/key/basic skills schemes have been developed in many
countries. In some countries, more than one scheme has been developed,
either sponsored by different organizations or because the original scheme
has been modified as a result of experience. These schemes represent
taxonomies of skills, to varying levels of complexity, and as taxonomies,
they are informative about the theoretical bases (most of which are tacit) that
formed the foundations for the development of these schemes.
As far as the identication of the skills is concerned, three approaches
can be identied in the delineation of them. First, skills have been identied
by employer organizations through interviews with and focus groups of
employer representatives and reviews of other schemes. Second, skills have
been identied through analyses of the skills enacted by practitioners in
workplaces. Third, a discipline-based approach has been taken in the
DeSeCo Project in which academics from six discipline groups were
commissioned to propose lists of generic skills.32
There is no one definitive list of generic skills; instead, there are a
number of lists. Each list has been compiled under the inuence of both
global and local factors and reects a particular situation. Some common
elements are the following:
Basic/fundamental skills, such as literacy, using numbers, using
technology
People-related skills, such as communication, interpersonal, teamwork,
customer-service skills
Conceptual/thinking skills, such as collecting and organizing
information, problem-solving, planning and organizing, learning-to-
learn skills, thinking innovatively and creatively, systems thinking
Personal skills and attributes, such as being responsible, resourceful,
exible, able to manage own time, having self-esteem
Skills related to the business world, such as innovation skills, enterprise
skills
32 Rychen and Salganik, eds., Denition and selection of Key…
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Skills related to the community, such as civic or citizenship knowledge
and skills
It might be discussed which of these skills belong to the category of “soft
skills”. Nevertheless, all the discussion reveals the importance that the
modern approaches give to the development and assessment of soft skills.
II.4. Beyond employability: a ‘holistic’ approach
In 2015 OECD produced a report, Skills for social progress: The power of
social and emotional skills,33 that presents a synthesis of the OECD’s analytical
work on the role of socio-emotional skills and proposes strategies to raise them.
It analyses the effects of skills on a variety of measures of individual well-being
and social progress, which covers aspects of our lives that are as diverse as
education, labour market outcomes, health, family life, civic engagement and
life satisfaction. The report discusses how policy makers, schools and families
facilitate the development of socio-emotional skills through intervention
programs, teaching and parenting practices. Not only does it identify promising
avenues to foster socio-emotional skills, it also shows that these skills can be
measured meaningfully within cultural and linguistic boundaries.
This report is mainly focused on development at school and not at university
because social and emotional skills are more malleable between early childhood
and adolescence; however it is interesting because it provides information
about the skills that foster lifetime success, learning contexts that drive skill
formation, national approaches, policies and assessment methodologies.
Emotional intelligence studies also support the hypothesis that
interpersonal skills are more likely to predict successful careers34 and that
they are necessary for the increasing use of teams, the rapid pace of
globalization, the capacity to dialogue in a cross-cultural environment, and
the growing need to retain talent in organizations.
As highlighted by the philosopher Martha Nussbaum, in Not for prot,
“we increasingly treat education as though its primary goal were to teach
students to be economically productive rather than to think critically and
become knowledgeable and empathetic citizens. This focus on protable
skills has eroded our ability to criticize authority, reduced our sympathy with
33 OECD, Skills for Social Progress [cit.].
34 Daniel Goleman, Emotional intelligence (New York: Bantam, 1995). Daniel Goleman,
and Richard Boyatzis, “Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership,” Harvard Business
Review, September (2008): 74-81.
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the marginalized and different, and damaged our competence to deal with
complex global problems”. 35
The American researcher Neil Noddings claims that “schools shouldn’t
serve merely as factories for the mass production of an able labour force”.36 In
addition to professional success perhaps even as a prerequisite for it
schools must equip students with the tools they need to flourish as well-
rounded human beings.
Adapting a framework created by UNESCO for a study on transversal
skills in the Asia-Pacic Region,37 we can say that the need for soft skills is
not only connected with employability but it intersects different discourses
(the economic, the social and the humanity discourses) and different
perspectives (the global, national and personal ones). Sometimes the drivers
for the integration of soft skills into education are built upon a combination
of these discourses and perspectives.
Table 3
Rationale for Integration of Transversal Competencies into Education
Economic Discourse Social Discourse Humanity Discourse
Global Perspective Competitiveness Social Progress Global Citizenship
National Perspective GDP* Growth HDI** Growth National identity
Personal Perspective Employability Community ‘Holistic’ formation
Source: adapted from Unesco Asia-Pacific Education Research Institutes Network (ERI-Net),
Regional Study on Transeversal Competencied in Education Policy and Practice,
Regional Report (Paris: Unesco, 2015).
* GDP: Gross domestic Product
** HDI: Human Development Index
At a glance, the economic discourse appears as the most powerful driver
to integrate soft skills in the university curriculum, both in a global and
national perspective, i.e. to boost economic development and increase
international competitiveness, but also to improve employability of young
people (personal perspective). This stems from the implicit factor of the
35 Martha Nussbaum, Not for Prot: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities (Princeton
University Press, 2010).
36 Neil Noddings, Happiness and Education (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).
37 UNESCO Asia-Pacic Education Research Institutes Network (ERI-Net), Regional
Study on Transeversal Competencies in Education Policy and Practice, Regional Report
(Paris: UNESCO, 2015).
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changing workplace, and hence, the changing expectations placed on new
young employees. At the same time, some researches also emphasise the
social and humanity discourse in which education is seen as a vehicle for
fostering a number of social, ethical, and moral attributes among students,
such as national identity, respect for diversity, tolerance, and empathy. From
the research it is made clear that all countries and economies seek the
integration of transversal competencies as imperative to the holistic
development of their youth, and consequently their societies. All reports
mention changing global and social contexts as important factors driving the
promotion of soft skills / transversal competencies as these are seen as
integral to fostering the attitudes and inter-personal attributes necessary to
manage and cope with, for example, uncertainty and changes.
III. The soft skills most required by the labour market
III.1. Quantitative analysis
In 2009, EucA (European University College Association) launched the
ModEs (Modernizing Higher Education Through Soft Skills Accreditation)
project, financed by the EU program “Lifelong Learning Erasmus” and
involving 15 partners from 10 countries for three years. The project was aimed
at integrating a common European program on soft skills in the academic
curricula. The two main products of the ModEs project were represented by a
Handbook,38 containing a set of guidelines to teach soft skills at the undergraduate
level, and a prototype of a “serious game” in different languages to develop soft
skills. The main targets of these deliverables were university teachers, trainers,
and student affairs and services educators.
In order to identify and group the soft skills required in the professional
eld, the experts in professional skills from the different partner organisations
involved in the ModEs project developed a list of skills and their denitions
from a literature review and their professional experience This list was
validated and reviewed within the project consortium, prior to validation by
companies. Thus, the list and the denitions of the soft skills have been
subject to an internal validation which provided: validity, what refers to
whether the meaning of the skill is in line with the reality to be dened;
importance: the relevance of the skills in the business environment; proposal
38 Haselberger et al., Mediating Soft Skills at Higher Education Institutions, ModEe
project: Lifelong Learning Programme, 2012, accessed March, 31, 2016, http://www.euca.eu/
en/prs/modes-handbook.aspx.
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of inclusion: both observations and modications to the soft skills included
in the preliminary list, as well as the possibility to add, delete or merge skills.
To complement the information the partners of the project counted on the
cooperation of people working in the area of human resources of companies,
and persons responsible for staff professional development from different
sectors, operating in Spain, Italy, Slovenia, Latvia and Malta. This stage has
been developed through the design and provision to the companies of an on-
line questionnaire. For this survey a Likert-type scale has been selected. A
total of 500 companies operating in different sectors of activity (from Spain,
Italy, Slovenia, Latvia and Malta) assessed the importance of the skills
included in the on-line questionnaire.
Additionally, a total of 35 experts coming from different European
countries with academic or consultancy background determined the
relative importance of the skills required and their grouping, according to the
afnity of the actions that can be undertaken to contribute to their development.
For this exercise, the experts were provided with the information on the
results from the on-line questionnaires to the companies. For the skills
clustering activity, the experts used the Concept Mapping methodology and
transformed qualitative data into quantitative information to be treated with
statistical techniques. As part of the process, data are structured, quantied
and analysed using statistical methods including Multidimensional Scaling
(MDS) and Hierarchical Cluster Analysis.
The result was a list of 22 skills divided into three main groups:
Personal skills, i.e. Learning skills, Tolerance to stress, Professional ethics,
Self-awareness, Commitment, Life balance, Creativity/Innovation
Social skills, i.e. Communication, Teamwork, Contact network,
Negotiation, Conict Management, Leadership, Culture Adaptability
Content-reliant/Methodological skills, i.e. Customer/User orientation,
Continuous improvement, Adaptability to change, Results orientation,
Analytical skills, Decision making, Management skills, Research and
info management
III.2. Qualitative analysis
A qualitative analysis on the skill gap was carried out in a further project,
eLene4work (e-Learning for work), that started in 2015 and is still going on.39
39 The website of the project is the following: http://elene4work.eu.
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The eLene4work project aims at helping students develop the soft skills mostly
required by companies and at helping companies exploit the digital talents of
new employers and young workers. eLene4work then proposes a strategic
partnership among universities, whose goal is to test and monitor the possibility
offered by MOOCs (Massive online courses) and OERs (Open Educational
Resources) to ll the gaps between the university and the labour market.
One of the main Outputs of this project is represented by a report, Which
soft skills do students have and which should they have?, that describes and
compares qualitative data about soft skills gathered through focus groups
carried out in 9 partner countries: Belgium, Finland, France, Germany,
Greece, Italy, Poland, Spain, UK.40
Focus Group meetings were organised with 2 stakeholders groups:
1. Students and young workers (FG1)
2. Employers, Human resources managers, Higher education teachers (FG2)
For each target focus groups were organized in two rounds. During the
rst round participants were asked to answer a set of questions aimed at
investigating on the meaning that the different stakeholders attribute to the
expression “soft skills”, on the importance of them in the labour market and
on the skill gaps that newly graduates and young workers might have in these
areas. In each partner countries the same sets (one for each group) of
questions were used during meetings, in order to make it possible to compare
the results in all countries.
The second meeting with both groups was devoted to share and discuss
results of rst meeting in the opposite group (Impressions from the results
about soft skills from FG1 and FG2). It means that students and young
workers were discussing about main ndings from rst meeting of employers
and Higher education teachers, and employers and Higher education teachers
were discussing ndings from rst meeting with students and young workers.
The expression “soft skills” was illustrated and explained in different
ways in different countries by both focus group participants. For example:
through analogies, by examples, by opposition to “hard skills”. They were
also dened as talents, as something that makes a person different from
others, as personal attributes.
The participants to focus group meetings listed a lot of soft skills which are
needed by the labour market. The most popular mentioned in most counties are
social skills connected with team working, communication, openness etc.
40 The complete report is available at this link: http://elene4work.eu/project-outputs/
focus-groups/.
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Business representatives and Higher Education teachers pointed out a lot
of gaps concerning soft skills in students. The most important of them were
divided into four groups:
Social skills, i.e. teamwork, communication (online but also face-to-
face “traditional” communication; all levels: speaking, listening,
formal and informal writing), exibility, openness for constructive
feedback and humility (in social contacts students are too self-condent
and convinced they know everything)
Personal skills, i.e. empathy (and other competences appropriate for
emotional intelligence), honesty, commitment and motivation, openness
for new things to learn, curiosity, patience, perseverance, capacity to
learn from one’s failure
“self-skills”, like self-evaluation, self-regulation of the learning process
and, as a consequence, capacity to make a conscious career choice
Learning skills, i.e. synthesis, skills of numeracy, ability to absorb in
and deeply familiarize the topic, presentation skills
Furthermore, students, as well as business representatives, pointed out a
few areas of existing potential in young workers/candidates:
Ability to search the information quickly and effectively
New ideas, ways of working and thinking; they have abilities to see and
do things in different ways and to innovate and improve existing process
Effectiveness and productivity, e.g. new ways to work, collaborate, fast
communication and right kind of visibility to the organization
Versatility
Freshness and agility
Multitasking methods
Speed in processing information
Free of a reputation in the work place
IV. Soft skills development in European countries
IV.1. A comparative analysis on the state of the art in some European countries
This comparative analysis was carried out during the already mentioned
eLene4work project. The rst output of the project was represented by a
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comparative analysis on the state of the art situation of soft skills and digital
soft skills in different European countries (Belgium, Finland, France,
Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Spain and UK).41
In order to collect the data from all these countries in a homogenous way,
a template was designed and a glossary with the denition of the different
soft skills was made available to all the partner institutions in order to share
a common framework to work with. Among the results of this work, an
overview of the main initiatives carried out in different countries and
transnational projects. In the next paragraph some European projects on soft
skills are presented.
At a national level, the state of the art on soft skills varies from country
to country. While in some countries the topic seems to be very important —
and therefore it is easier to nd research on it, in other countries this topic is
still developing.
In Belgium, a very interesting initiative is the U2ES University to
Enterprise and Society “Boost your skills” (University of Namur).42 It
presents additional courses (14 credits ECTS in all) focused on soft skills that
enrich bachelor/master/PhD students’ university curriculum. Courses focus
mainly on organisation skills, communication, personal development. They
can last from 6 months to 2/3 years. Another initiative is the HoGent
Centre for Entrepreneurship (University of Gent).43 The Centre carries out
practical-oriented research and services for entrepreneurs. Students engaging
in the Centre’s activities acquire knowledge about entrepreneurship and
receive a certicate as proof of their skills and (rst) relevant practical
experience. There are also trainings, like the training on Soft Skills for PhD
students (University of Liège).44 Considered that not all PhD students will
have academic positions, the University of Liège provides them additional
courses on soft skills to make them more prepared to enter the labour market.
Another initiative is “Logistics in Wallonia Soft Skills Certicate”.45
Trainings focus on exibility, leadership, team-working, self-development,
41 A full report of the rst output (Comparative analysis on the state of the art of soft skill
and soft skills 2.0) is available at: http://elene4work.eu/project-outputs/comparative-analysis/.
42 U2ES University to Enterprise and Society “Boost your skills” (University of
Namur), http://u2es.unamur.be/introduction.
43 HoGent Centre for Entrepreneurship (University of Gent), http://centrum-voor-
ondernemen.be/en/centre-for-entrepreneurship.
44 Training on Soft Skills for PhD students (University of Liège), https://www.ulg.ac.be/
cms/c_775258/en/soft-skills-for-researchers.
45 Logistics in Wallonia Soft Skills Certicate http://www.logisticsinwallonia.be/
news/un-nouveau-certicat-pour-renforcer-ses-competences-transversales-et-favoriser-une-
insertion.
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interpersonal skills, ability to work in multicultural groups and problem
solving capacities. The program is the result of an agreement among the
above mentioned universities, the Centre for Long-Life Learning of the
University of Liege and “Logistics in Wallonia”, an association of 265
members from different fields (industries, infrastructures management
services, research centres). Additional training on soft skills addressed to
students of the Haute École Mosane, the Haute École Charlemagne, the
Haute École de la province de Liège.
In Finland the focus in on life skills. The importance of both working
and life skills has been recognized and identied by the various stakeholders
(employers, students and universities). Finnish universities have actively
developed skill studies in the recent years.46 Working and life skills were
categorized as: 1) academic knowledge building and academic thinking 2)
integration of knowledge 3) social and communication skills 4) self-
regulation skills 5) leadership and 6) networking skills. Projects in this
country intend to develop new ways to organize university courses based
on collaborative knowledge creation and digital technology. Päivi Tynjälä47
(Head on research group in The Finnish Institute for educational research,
University of Jyväskylä) has studied how university teaching may develop
skills needed in working life in Finland. The solution for increasing
expertise and working and life teaching is presented as the so-called
integrative pedagogy, where courses are organized in such a way that they
combine all the expertise components. For example, the internship is a
good opportunity to implement integrative pedagogy, as long as the
training is held in controlled manner so that it includes practical experience
and reection. Other practices that combine theory and meta-cognitive
46 Liisa Ilomäki, Minna Lakkala & Kari Kosonen, “Mapping the terrain of modern
knowledge work competencies.” A paper presented in a symposium Generating working life
competencies during higher education at the 15th Biennial EARLI conference for Research on
Learning and Instruction August 27-31, 2013, Munich, Germany, accessed March, 31, 2016,
http://www.earli2013.org/programme/proposal-view/?abstractid=1157.
Johanna Penttilä, University student`s work orientation. Study contents, career guidance
and pictures of the future. Otus 30/2009. Helsinki: Opiskelijajärjestöjen tutkimussäätiö. Otus,
accessed March, 31, 2016, http://ek2010.multiedition./korkeakouluharjoittelijat/liitteet/yo-
opiskelijoiden_tyoelamaan_orientoituminen.pdf.
Antero Puhakka, “Mapping the skills masters need in their work”. In Puhakka &
Tuominen (toim.), Kunhan kuluu viisi vuotta — ylemmän korkeakoulututkinnon suorittaneiden
työurat. Aarresaari-verkoston julkaisusarja. 61-86, accessed March, 31, 2016, http://www.
aarresaari.net/pdf/Kunhankuluuviisivuotta.pdf.
47 Päivi Tynjälä, “Workplace expertice and higher education pedagogy”, Aikuiskasvatus
28, nº 2 2008, 124-127.
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elements in pedagogy are problem-based and project-based learning. The
ProWo-project (2014)48 provides research-based ideas and models about
how to advance students’ modern working life competences in university
education. During the project, teachers, students, and other stakeholders
developed new ways to organize university courses based on collaborative
knowledge creation, digital technology and cross-fertilization of practices
with working life.
In France, the Career Center49 is an initiative with the aim of developing
soft skills. On the website of the Career Center there is help to nd a job and it
suggests several transversal skills to develop: leadership, teamwork, problem
solving, organization, communication, self-knowledge, motivation and
enthusiasm, decision-making and exibility. Another initiative is the CEDEFI,50
an association of the directors of French Engineering Schools, which offers a
course to help future PHD students to improve their competences to join a
company (80% of PhDs in scientic disciplines are working in enterprises).
The curricula includes a part called ‘autonomy and project management’
where some soft skills are taken into account, such as learning skills, adaptability
to changes, project management, leadership or communication. Finally, the
Reex Soft Skills Academy51 is a website with videos to learn to develop soft
skills in relation with the book Reflex soft skills (Conscientiousness,
entrepreneurship, condence and synergy). A further initiative in the eld of
soft-skills development is the TalentCampus project.52 TalentCampus is one of
the programmes supported by the Centre for Research and Higher Education
(PRES) Bourgogne Franche-Comté via its Foundation for Scientific
Cooperation. TalentCampus is an innovative education programme designed
for the development of social competences using soft skills. Proposed in the
format of Summer, Winter and Spring schools, TalentCampus aims to develop
competences complementary to academic ones: leadership, behaviour in
society, emotional intelligence, stress management.
In Germany, the topic is considered very relevant and the focus is more
on “key skills” that, as we have seen previously, only partially overlap the
48 http://blogs.helsinki.fi/prowo-project/2014/06/29/the-website-of-knork-project-
launced/.
49 Career center: http://www.michaelpage.fr/career-center/developper-competence-
transverses.html.
50 CEDEFI, Association of the Directors of French Engineering Schools: http://www.
cde.fr/les/les/R%C3%A9f%C3%A9rentiel%20parcours%20Comp%C3%A9tences%20
pour%20l%27Entreprise.pdf.
51 Reex Soft Skills Academy: http://reexsoftskills.fr/.
52 TalentCampus project: http://www.talent-campus.fr/.
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concept of soft skills. There are many initiatives that stress the importance of
key skills and that promote recommendations on how to organize and
implement skills in higher education.53 Universities in this country have
established centres for key skills or expanded the existing departments to
support and promote key skills. Many universities organize the promotion of
key competences by setting up interdisciplinary centres (key competences
centres). It is a chance for the universities to be visible to the world, get to be
known by companies and optimize their reputation. Other universities try to
develop the concept of ‘Service learning’: The professional higher education
is connected to projects that respond to actual needs layers of non-prot
actors in the region. Companies would more often select the so-called “Key
Universities” for enhanced cooperation. The companies are then prepared to
support these universities with equipment know-how but also nancially.
In Greece, there is a general recognition of the importance of soft skills
in improving the productivity of the workforce, but there is still quite a
degree of ambiguity in dening their boundaries.54 In general, soft skills are
seen as people-oriented skills and self-management skills. At a national level
there are not many initiatives that are dedicated to this problem and most of
them are associated with European policy and European funds, like in the
case of Poland. The importance of soft skills for enhancing employability,
personal fullment and social participation is widely accepted. In Greece, the
educational institutions have accepted that they should prepare their students
for a complex and uncertain society and labour market. While they appear to
have accepted their new vocational role, there is considerable confusion over
how generic competencies, soft skills, attributes or capabilities should be
dened and implemented.
Also in the case of Italy, the soft skills development arouses the interest
of various stakeholders. Among these, universities play an important role and
sometimes offer targeted training, such as MOOCs in the Polytechnic
53 Some examples: http://www.va-bne.de, http://www.egs.uni-bremen.de.
Society for key competences in Education, Research and practice; http://www.gesellschaft-
fuer-schluesselkompetenzen.de.
Nexus Impulse für die Praxis “Employability,” Von der Leerformel zum Letziel, 2014,
www.hrk-nexus.de.
Virtuelle Hochschullandschaft Norddeutschland, “(VHN), Empfehlungen der
Arbeitsgruppe Schlüsselkompetenzen,” 2007, https://studieren.de/berblick-soft-skills.0.html.
54 LinkedIn group for Entrepreneurship, Financial Literacy, Skills for employability:
https://www.linkedin.com/grp/home?gid=4272606.
Facebook page for Entrepreneurship, Financial Literacy, Skills for employability: https://
www.facebook.com/SENJAGREECE/.
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University of Milan. Furthermore, the ManPower Group55 carried out a
survey in collaboration with the Department of Education and Psychology of
the University of Florence in order to create a basis for the development of a
national “observatory” on soft skills recognized and required by the labour
market. The ManPower Group has identied a set of soft skills connected
with the three levels of organizational roles: fundamental operational roles,
managerial roles and executive roles. The research found out that for
operational roles and entry-level team working and orientation to results are
the most requested competences. As concerns managerial roles, the need to
provide concrete solutions and / or alternatives to daily problems, by bringing
together and harmonizing the contributions of various collaborators is
fundamental. Two skills emerge for the executive roles: leadership and
strategic vision. The survey also investigated which skills are important for
the future and transversal to all the roles. This data is more fragmented since
there is no basis of common experience on which to base certain answers or
imagine future needs. In general, given the current and changeable working
environment, adaptability and integration in the employment context become
essential. There are also initiatives aiming at assessing and developing the
soft skills needed to enter the labour market56 or national policies which
intend to regulate the national system of certication of skills.
The subject of the skills required for the labour market is also relevant in
Poland, where, in the last years, there has been a lot of discussion and
research on this subject.57 However, there are not many initiatives or policies
at a national level in this country, as most of them are associated with
55 Manpower Group, Soft Skills for Talent, Internal Report, 2014, accessed March, 31,
2016, http://www.manpowergroup.it/indagine-soft-skills-manpowegroup.
56 POK Project Politecnico di Milano: www.pok.polimi.it. Luiss Skill A Bus/Geek Café:
http://www.luiss.it/studenti/soft-skills-and-training-opportunities/soft-skills-con-cfu.
Competency Centre, Università Cà Foscari, Venezia http://www.unive.it/nqcontent.cfm?a_
id=141907. JUMP (Job University Matching Project) promoted by Fondazione RUI http://
www.rui.it/it/pagine/view/jump.
Project Skill License promoted by Adecco: http://www.adecco.it/opportunita-speciali/
skill-licence/default.aspx. GIOTTO Project promoted by FederManager (company association
for Managers): http://www.manageritalia.it/content/download/Associazione/associazioni/
renze/GIOTTO_2015_Presentazione.pdf.
57 GoldenLine (similar to LinkedIn portal) group for Business Trainers and Coaches:
http://www.goldenline.pl/grupy/Przedsiebiorcy_biznesmeni/trenerzy-biznesu-szkolenia-
miekkie/.
GoldenLine group for measurement of soft skills: http://www.goldenline.pl/grupy/
Zainteresowania/miekkie-kompetencje-pomiar-i-szkolenie/.
GoldenLine coach group: http://www.goldenline.pl/grupy/Zainteresowania/coaching-
praktyka-oparta-na-dowodach-coaching-ebp/.
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European policies and funds. In Polish universities, soft skills are not well
developed, although companies underline the importance of these skills and
the soft skills gap. Moreover, there is not a clear denition of soft skills.
Soft skills and digital skills are also very important in Spain, as it is
reected by the debates and amount of research on this issue recently.58 There
is a lot of research coming from Spanish universities, which has treated the
topic of how to introduce soft skills in the academic curriculums. However,
according to some sources, it is believed that these actions have been taken
without having generated enough debate on the issue in order to clarify the
concepts around it and to analyse the most appropriate models. The initiatives
are not only appearing in the academic context, but also in companies, where
there are trainings on soft skills.
Last but not least, the development of soft skills to enhance graduate
employability is a major area of concern is the UK. This concern is shared by
the UK government, employers and higher education institutions, where the
Higher Education Academy has a whole department dedicated to
employability.59 However, it is not easy to nd valuable sources in this country,
even if there is a number of articles and initiatives on transferrable skills, the
development of soft and digital skills and the skills for employability.60 As in
58 Gobierno de España, Ministerio de empleo y seguridad social, Estrategia de
emprendimiento y empleo joven 2013/2016, Accessed March, 31, 2016, http://www.empleo.
gob.es/cheros/garantiajuvenil/documentos/EEEJ_Documento.pdf.
Some more examples of this debate are available at the following links:
http://www.fib.upc.edu/eees/cicleactivitats_08-09/mainColumnParagraphs/05/text_
les/le/EvaluacionCompetenciasTransversales.PDF
http://excelcon.blogs.upv.es/2014/10/01/cuales-son-las-competencias-transversales-de-
la-upv/
http://www.uwc.org/uwc_education/short_programmes/spain_2015.aspx
http://www.aqu.cat/tallers/jornada_ocupadors/index.html#.VUz0Ivntmkp
https://www.facebook.com/CompetenciasTransversales/info?tab=page_info
https://www.facebook.com/institutodecompetenciastransversales/info?tab=page_info
http://www.habilidadesblandas.com/.
59 UK Commission for Employment and Skills, The Future of Work: Jobs and skills in
2030, 2014 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/
le/303334/er84-the-future-of-work-evidence-report.pdf.
60 Manuel Salas Velasco, “More than just good grades: candidates’ perceptions about the
skills and attributes employers seek in new graduates,” Journal of Business Economics and
Management 13, nº 3 (2012); 499-517, DOI: 10.3846/16111699.2011.620150.
David Nicol, The foundation for graduate attributes: developing self-regulation through
self-assessment. QAA Scotland, 2010, accessed March, 31, 2016, http://www.enhancementthemes.
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UK, in France, there are also factors which make the research on soft skills
difcult, such as the fact that the topic is still emerging and that it is difcult to
nd a common French term to indicate soft skills and a common denition. In
general, the teaching of soft skills in universities is not well developed and
there are no national policies on soft skills for higher education. However, soft
skills tests are being used in companies in order to hire or promote employees.
IV.2. European projects
In the last few years different projects nanced by EU focused on soft
skills. The MASS project61 outlines importance of using different approaches
of assessment for different group of people. A variety of approaches were
collected, which can be used as a base for an adaptable system for many
types of institutes and audiences, for example to prepare disadvantaged
learners for employment.
The results of a survey in the E-QUA project,62 that maps the various
models of mobility in Europe, give exact situation regarding the soft skills on
European universities. It was shown that only eight out of twenty-eight
universities offer a soft skills development programme. All of them provide
the development programme for both local students and incoming mobility
students. The developed skills are mostly operative skills, intellectual/
practical/relational/managerial skills, personal skills and thought skills.
Furthermore, only 50% of incoming mobility students receive a formal
acknowledgment of the soft skills programs that could be recognized once
back in their home country. In the project „Soft skills — improving
professional competence and management“63 is also highlighted a signicant
lack of training in soft skills. At the same time, if they exist, they are too
expensive or physically out of reach of most SMEs. Therefore, the authors
ac.uk/docs/publications/the-foundation-for-graduate-attributes-developing-self-regulation-
through-self-assessment.pdf?sfvrsn=28.
Catherine Jane Hack, “Developing an open education resource to develop digital literacy
skills for employability in the Life and Health Sciences,” Journal of Educational Innovation,
Partnership and Change 1, nº 1 (2015), accessed March, 31, 2016, https://journals.gre.ac.uk/
index.php/studentchangeagents/article/view/206/211.
61 MASS — Measuring and Assessing Soft Skills Project, available at http://www.mass-
project.org/attachments/396_MASS%20wp4%20nal%20report%20part-1.pdf.
62 7. E-QUA Erasmus Quality Hosting Framework’, available at http://www.equa-
project.eu/en/index.aspx.
63 Soft skills — improving professional competence and management, available at http://
softskillsproject.com.
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realized the importance of delivering a full range of training materials for
free to as many European organizations as possible that can be used to
improve the skills of European professionals.
The DAISS project64 also supported many unemployed adults in 6 EU
countries to gain greater self-awareness in terms of their soft skills. They also
supported recognition of the need to develop these skills and competences to
meet the needs of an increasingly competitive labour market. The project results
consisted in a number of new collaborations where VET providers and employers
have worked together. The NESSIE project65 brings up a list of skill gaps that are
linked to a range of labour market problems: high staff turnover/difculty
recruiting (particularly in the young), lack of ability to compete, inability to cope
with change, reasons for staff dismissal and problems in school.
The HISS project66 aimed at transferring existing tools on screening soft
skills, workplace learning methodologies and mentoring methodologies into a
wider range of target-groups (including students, younger job seekers,
employers, unemployed adults), sectors of activities and in different countries
at European level. The Learning Partnership “Gaining soft skills”67 was aimed
at developing learning tools and environments for strengthening soft skills and
models of supporting learning and training while connecting generations in
order to increase employability and motivation for all ages.
The GRASS project68 focused on representing soft skills of learners of
various ages and at different levels of education in a quantitative, measurable
way, so that these skills might become the subject of formal validation and
recognition. The S-Cube project69 developed an online role play training to
help Social Enterprises improve soft skills. The VALEW project70 developed
a model for certication of competences acquired in non-formal /informal
learning environments.
The YES ME project71 selected international cases concerning the
development of transversal and personal skills, both in active labour market
64 “Job Matching Diagnostics for Assessing Soft Skills and Work Role Preferences:
DAISS”, available at: http://daiss-project.eu.
65 NESSIE — Network for Soft Skills Innovation for Employment, available at http://
www.adam-europe.eu/prj/9722/project_9722_en.pdf.
66 HISS — Help to Improve Soft Skills, available at: http://www.hisstoolbox.eu.
67 “Gaining and strengthening ‘soft skills’ for employment through models of supporting
methods (peer coaching and mentoring), available at: http://www.gainingsoftskills.eu/Index.aspx
68 GRASS — Grading Soft skills, available at: https://sites.google.com/site/llpgrassproject/.
69 S-Cube — Soft Skills for Social enterprises, available at: http://www.s-cubeproject.eu.
70 VALEW — Validate Learning at Work, available at: http://www.valew.eu/.
71 YES-ME — Young Employment System for Mobility in Europe, available at: http://
www.yesme.it.
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and training policies, targeted to unemployed youth who lack technical and
transversal skills and aimed to the improvement of youth employment and
mobility.
V. Teaching and learning soft skills at University level
V.1. Mapping best practices
A further step of the already mentioned ModEs project consisted in
mapping the best practices and methodologies applied for the development
of soft skills through the analysis and comparison of the scenarios in four
countries (Italy, Spain, Great Britain and Poland).
Beside this, plenty of information concerning universities and halls of
residence was collected with the aim of understanding how the soft skills
theme is approached in different institutions. We developed the research in
two phases. In the first phase we designed a questionnaire, which was
administered in 93 institutions (some universities and many university halls
of residence) in 4 countries.
After gathering quantitative data through the survey, a further phase of
qualitative research was necessary in order to map the best practices and
analyse teaching, learning and assessment methods concerning the
development of soft skills in halls of residence. This second phase was
carried out through focus groups and interviews with directors of halls of
residence and an ethnographic study, i. e. ‘a portrait’ of the halls of residence,
based on information collected through observation on the eld. Thus, after
constructing an initial framework, giving us a general overview of the nature
of soft skill learning and teaching in halls of residence, we carried out further
enquiries to gain a more thorough understanding of the practices, gathering
evidence about formal, non-formal and informal activities carried out in halls
of residence for soft skill development.
From the analysis of the answers collected in the survey (93 institutions
in 4 countries), the development of soft skills emerges as a popular theme,
especially in Italy, but only half of the halls of residence that completed the
survey have a programme for the development of soft skills, and a structured
assessment model.
Skills mapping models only exist in Italy and Spain. Their descriptions
articulate different circumstances, in line with the universities’ and halls of
residences’ declared goals: intellectual and cultural growth (29,2%); ethical,
spiritual and human growth (52,4%); personal growth (22,2%); professional
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and academic excellence (32,8%). As far as the different skills are concerned,
there are some differences. On the one hand, Italian halls of residence focus
on managerial capabilities, while in Spain, personal skills (for example,
creativity and innovation, tolerance to stress etc.) receive more attention. In
general, the two countries place a lot of importance on relational skills,
intellectual abilities and learning skills.
In different countries halls of residence have adopted different polices in
regard of students’ development. In Italy, in many halls of residence, courses
are mandatory and prescribed according to rules in most institutions. In Spain
both universities and halls of residence encourage students to take part in
courses but they are not mandatory. In all the English halls participation in
soft skill development activities is purely voluntary. In Poland soft skills
training is part of non-obligatory studies and training sessions are organised
by the students themselves through the Career Ofce.
Soft skill development is fostered also through international exchanges
and the promotion of an intercultural environment. International exchanges
are available for students at all the English colleges, in most of the Italian
colleges (86.2%) and in the 64.7% of the Spanish ones. Poland does not offer
any opportunity in this respect. These data are also in line with the answer
collected about students’ nationality: the majority (97.5%) of them comes
from Poland. By contrast, the results obtained from the English colleges
show a very high percentage of non-English students (79.5%).
Figure 1
Soft skills development in halls of residence:
quantitative and qualitative research
Source: Maria Cinque, Soft Skills in Action. Halls of Residence as Centres for Life and Learning.
2nd Revised Edition, Brussels: EucA, 2014.
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Traditional lessons are offered in particular in Italian halls of residence,
while they represent just the 25% of the whole training activities in Spain.
The other activities may be clustered into two main groups: ‘connection with
external professionals and companies’ and ‘internal practical activities’. The
percentages of these two categories are similar, even if internal activities
reach a higher percentage and this because they are easier to organise and
manage.
Connections with universities are present in all the countries in a high
percentage, except of Poland. Not all the halls of residence completed this
section of the questionnaires and the answers provided were in the most part
unspecic. As far as Italy and Spain are concerned, this connection can take
the form of: course recognition through credit acknowledgement (13% in
Italy and 25% in Spain); jointly course and projects organisation (8.7% in
Italy and 16.7% in Spain); agreement about grants and hospitality (39.2% in
Italy); collaboration (unspecied) and promotion (26.1% in Italy and 58.3 in
Spain).
The qualitative part of the research was performed in different phases.
After sending a template for the best practices, we interviewed the directors
of the halls of residence (or the people working at educational and cultural
activities in the colleges) and gathered direct data, which were compared
with the information available on the websites of the halls of residence,
annual reports, or internal journals. The product of this qualitative research
was used both to inform the Handbook of the ModEs project with best
practices drawn from the experiences of the colleges, and to gain a deeper
understanding of soft skill development in halls of residence. This is often
based on very informal practices, and difcult to standardise and formally
acknowledge. Only the very effective ‘best practices’ were selected for the
Handbook. In some cases, the templates were sent back to the interviewees
for a double check. All the other activities, mainly the informal ones that
were not suitable for inclusion in the ‘best practice template’, were analysed
and included in another publication.72 This second step of the research was
also useful to investigate the pedagogy of soft skills, i.e. innovative teaching
and learning methodologies and assessment tools for soft skill development
in halls of residence. In this paragraph, a general overview of the results
obtained from the qualitative research is presented.
In the halls of residence, soft skills are developed through formal, non-
formal, and informal activities that can be divided into four main typologies:
72 Maria Cinque, Soft Skills in Action. Halls of Residence as Centres for Life and
Learning (Brussels: EucA, 2012).
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1. Recognised (i.e. accredited according to the European transfer Credit
System) soft skills courses organised by universities or at universities
by halls of residence’s teachers and tutors
2. Recognised soft skills courses organised in halls of residence and
colleges — attended by residential and non-residential students
3. Non-recognised soft skills courses organised in halls of residence
4. Soft skills in action, i.e. experiential learning trough practical activities
In the rst two groups only formal activities are included because they are
accredited both if they are carried out at universities and in halls of residence.
Consequently, we can have academic, recognised activities and non-academic,
recognised activities. The third group is composed of activities that are non-
academic and non-recognised, although the structure of the courses is similar
to the previous ones. Non-academic, non-accredited and informal activities
belong to the fourth group since they do not have the structure of a course but
mainly consist in tasks and forms of ‘social learning’. Generally soft skill
development can be performed under different forms and with various tools:
mini-curricula; programmes, workshops and labs; training sessions (sometimes
with outdoor activities); projects (internal project works, external cooperation
projects etc.); internal and external competitions; cycles of seminars (face to
face lessons) and/or colloquia (guest speakers); company visits, journeys
(study tours), internship and on the job training; individual or group tasks /
learning based on practical activities.
Various forms of assessment are used in halls of residence to evaluate
students’ improvements. The majority of colleges assess students’ skills at
the beginning and at the end of the training course but sometimes,
assessment models are not structured. Occasionally, only an evaluation
form (measuring students’ satisfaction of the courses) is provided. Very
rarely assessment is ‘formal’ and quantitative, through written or oral tests.
This kind of assessment is normally used for academic courses. Generally,
assessment of soft skill courses is based on teachers’ or tutors’ observations
of individuals working in groups or on their own. This observation can be
unstructured and based on teachers’ or tutors’ free descriptions; sometimes
an assessment grid or a checklist can be provided. Another tool is self-
assessment, which is probably the most popular method in halls of residence
to evaluate students also during courses; nonetheless, also in this case there
is a lack of structured tools.
Self-assessment and interviews are widely used to examine students
entering in colleges; only some Italian residences have adopted assessment
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centres. Assessing students’ capabilities is a fundamental step to dene their
training paths, focusing on the areas to improve and determining the selection
of courses to attend; ignoring this phase will strongly inuence learning and
personal education goals. Assessment at the end of the process (at the end of
a course, of a year or of a whole period in the hall of residence) is important
to verify the fullment level of the set goals. At the same time, it is also true
that accurately summarizing learning — especially the breadth and depth of
learning that occurs across different years in collegiate halls of residence
in a few simple quantitative parameters is a difcult task. Not only do tests of
this type tend to measure merely factual knowledge (as compared to
understanding, reasoning, or creative ability), but they do so in a manner that
isn’t enough meaningful for the student. As a matter of fact, halls of residence
are shifting the focus of assessment from quantitative to qualitative assessment
but the problem is that very often this kind of assessment is not systematic or
structured.
Some halls of residence in Italy are providing a university coaching
services for their students. With the help of a coach, each student is required
to set personal goals for continuous improvement. Through this process the
student is able to explore his/her own areas of development, set SMART (i.e.
Specic, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound) goals as well as
identifying the best tools to achieve these goals. At regular intervals students
— together with their coaches — monitor their progress through assessments.
At the end of the individual coaching process, the coach could issue a
coaching report, which is composed of the following parts: analytical
description of the skills that the coachee (student) has chosen to develop;
analytical description of set goals and intended outcomes; synthetic
assessment of the results, comparing the initial and the nal self-assessment
of soft skills mapping.
V.2. Methodologies for soft skills development
Learning methodologies continue to be shaped and impacted by changing
societal and trends, taking also into account the new possibilities offered by
technology. One way to understand this impact on the development of soft
skills is by outlining a map of the most appropriate methodologies in use.
Soft skills are developed through formal and informal activities as
mentioned previously, and universities recognise formal skill development
activities in the classroom and outside the classroom. The informal skill
development activities are non-academic and while not ofcially recognized
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in terms of bearing credit for participation, the structure of the courses and
training programs can be similar to those offered for credit. Soft skills
development in the classroom can be performed using mini-curricula,
programs, workshops, labs, training sessions, projects, company visits and
study journey, and individual or group tasks. Similarly, these same or similar
activities can take place in the co-curriculum to compliment the skills
obtained in the classroom.
With the qualitative research on the best practices applied to soft skills,73
different kinds of teaching strategies were identied in the ModEs project.
They can be divided into three groups: expository, guided, and active
strategies (see Table 4). The strategies include both university teaching
methods and company training techniques.
Table 4
Learning Methodologies to Develop Soft Skills
Expository Guided Active
Lecture Discussion, debate Brainstorming
Seminar Workshop Role play
Conference Case study Business game
Demonstration Project work Visits, Journeys
Simulation Outdoor training
Mentoring Coaching
A further challenge is represented by the use of digital technologies for
the training of the soft skills. In the ModEs project a prototype of “serious
game” was implemented in order to train communication, negotiation and
team work. The approach taken to develop the serious game included three
different pedagogic concepts i.e. exploratory, experiential, and game-
based learning which reect the paucity of existing research linking
pedagogic elements to both learning requirements and technical features. In
the eLene4work project students learn how to ll their soft skill gaps using
MOOCs (Massive online courses) and OER (Open Educational Resources).
73 Maria Cinque, Soft Skills in Action. Halls of Residence as Centres for Life and Learning
(Brussels: EucA, 2012). Maria Cinque, Soft Skills in Action. Halls of Residence as Centres for
Life and Learning. Second Revised Edition (Brussels: EucA, 2014).
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The aim is to provide a proof of concept and introduce innovative ways of
soft skills training.
Halls of residence promote different kinds of teaching methods and
educational settings that can produce different kinds of learning,74 which are
described here:
Cooperative Learning: students work in small groups on an assigned
project or problem, under the guidance of the facilitator who monitors
the groups.
Problem-based/Project-based learning: participants work in small
groups to solve a problem and are guided by a tutor-facilitator.
Action Learning: it is a process that facilitates and enhances the
learning of groups of people coming together to tackle real challenges
and at the same time learning from experience through reection and
action.
Experiential learning: it is the process of grasping meaning from the
experience itself. The student must be able to reect on the experience,
must possess and use analytical skills to conceptualize the experience.
Reciprocal learning: two students form a learning partnership
committed to helping each other reach a particular learning goal.
Progressive mastery: it is characterized by sequential micro-
reinforcement in units of learning about a subject or training aimed at
developing a competence.
Critical reection: students are required to carry out specic tasks that
enhance their reection and their metacognition about the activities
performed.
Active seeking of meaning: it consists in helping student to actively seek
the personal and social meaning of whatever they are doing, of their
activities and experiences, in order to overcome difculties that arise
during study.
It is important to bring students together in a collaborative/competitive
environment and they can learn from each other and through the exposure
to authentic, complex and real-life problems. Soft skill learning is
‘meaningful,’ since it is a wilful, intentional, active, conscious, constructive,
74 Ibidem.
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and socially mediated practice that includes reciprocal intention — action
reection activities.
VI. Conclusions
Pushed by current socio-economic projections, a rising number of
governments and international institutions are trying to bring closer the
world of education and training and the world of work: graduates’
employability, innovation and entrepreneurship, ICT use in tertiary education,
are just some of the topics on this agenda. The level of youth unemployment
across the world is one factor in the increasing pressure on universities to
tailor their curricula on current labour market needs as well as anticipating
competencies for future jobs. From gathering evidence on skills demand,
experimentation with curricula design, research on the training and
assessment of soft skills in academia, to university-business cooperation,
universities can provide an important contribution both with research
initiatives for evidence-based policies and actively working toward the
development of national and international skills strategies.
Soft skills, as discussed earlier, might be listed among the expected
outcomes of the university curriculum. From 1999 to 2010, the Bologna
Process members aimed at creating the European Higher Education Area
(EHEA), which was ofcially created with the Budapest-Vienna Declaration
of March, 2010.
Since 2001, Dublin Descriptors have been adopted as the cycle descriptors for
the framework for qualications of the European Higher Education Area. They
offer generic statements of typical expectations of achievements and abilities
associated with awards that represent the end of each Bologna cycle: knowledge
and understanding, applying knowledge and understanding, and the ‘soft’ skills;
making judgements, communication skills, learning skills. The Member States
have gradually integrated the descriptors within their Higher Education systems.
In Italy, for example, in 2010, the Ministry of Education published the
Qualications Framework for Higher Education, which summarises the main
features of the Italian Higher Education Degree System, describing each course in
terms of credits and general learning outcomes. In spite of this general trend, the
focus of the programmes offered at most EU universities is still based on teaching
traditional scientic skills rather than on soft and complementary skills.
The decade 2010-2020 has been aimed at consolidating the EHEA, so
that universities may become motors of change and innovation. One strategic
action is the curricular reform to tailor higher education institutions to the
requests coming from the labour market. Mismatches between skills and
“Lost in translation”. Soft skills development in European countries Cinque
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doi: 10.18543/tjhe-3(2)-2016pp389-427 • http://www.tuningjournal.org/193
jobs, such as skill gaps in the workplace, shortage of adequately skilled
gures for certain positions or the abundance of candidates in sectors where
there are not enough suitable vacancies need to be corrected. Effectively
anticipating which skills will be required by companies in years to come is
crucial in order to equip future workers with the ‘right’ competencies.
The aim of this article was to enhance understanding of soft skills and to
indicate key areas for soft skill development at University level.
One difculty is represented by the fact that different countries have
different methodologies and approaches to the teaching and recognition of
skills for employability. The presence of such discrepancies requires that
cooperation should be strengthened among the different stakeholders to nd
common solutions and educational models that provide a common set of
skills and of training tools.
Another obstacle is represented by the absence of a common language.
This is why in the rst part we discussed different denitions and classications
of soft skills in order to enhance the understanding of this theme.
One further issue is to identify the soft skills most required by the labour
market. Different studies have investigated on this theme. We presented two
examples, carried out during two European projects, of quantitative and
qualitative researches.
The comparative analysis of the state of the art of soft skills development
in different European countries presented in the fourth part of this article
painted a very dis-homogenous picture: although the topic is widely debated
in all the countries, in some of them (Belgium, Finland, France, Germany,
UK) there are many initiatives going on, whilst in some others (Greece, Italy,
Spain) the topic is still developing. Nevertheless, besides national and
transnational initiatives (many European projects have been carried out on
this theme), we mapped “best practices” coming from European halls of
residence, where besides with learning methodologies and techniques, soft
skills development is fostered through an opportune environment.
The importance of the “environmental factor” is also stressed in the
recent Report published by the High Level Group on the Modernisation of
Higher Education:75
Universities and higher education institutions, as part of the education
system, should not educate students only in narrow, knowledge-based
specializations, but must go further, seeking the integral education of the
75 EC (European Commission), “Modernisation of Higher Education, Report on Improving
the quality of teaching and learning in Europe’s higher education institutions,” 2013, 36, accessed
March, 31, 2016, http://ec.europa.eu/education/library/reports/modernisation_en.pdf.
“Lost in translation”. Soft skills development in European countries Cinque
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doi: 10.18543/tjhe-3(2)-2016pp389-427 • http://www.tuningjournal.org/ 194
person. […] Efforts need to be concentrated on developing transversal
skills, or soft skills […]. In order to develop these skills, teaching is not
enough: an appropriate environment is also required. For example, extra-
curricular activities, whether organized in a university/college/institute
environment, ranging from volunteering, culture and the arts, to sports and
leisure activities, help develop soft skills and nurture talents.
Future research should focus on the relationship between soft skill
development and environmental conditions, not only at university but also in
schools and on the job, also exploring the connection between these skills
and what was already known as “hidden curriculum”, i.e. the unwritten,
unofficial, and often unintended lessons, values, and perspectives that
students learn, as a function of implicit values held by the institution as a
whole. The hidden curriculum consists of the unspoken or implicit academic,
social, and cultural messages that are communicated to students while they
are in a specic environment (school, university, hall of residence etc.) and
that are part of the organizational culture of that environment. Educators
(school teachers, university professors, halls of residence directors etc.) need
to be aware of the symbolic aspect of the environment and of their role in
structuring students’ soft skills.
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About the Author
MARIA CINQUE (m.cinque1@lumsa.it) is Associate Professor of Didactics, Teaching
methodologies and Pedagogy of inclusion at the Department of Human Studies of
LUMSA University in Rome (Italy). She also teaches Communication and
Teaching skills to Science Nutrition students at Campus Bio-Medico University in
Rome. Her main research interests focus on coaching and creativity (Agire creativo,
2010), on technologies for teaching and learning (Eteaching, 2011), on talent
development and management (In merito al talento, 2013), on soft skills (Soft skills
in action, 2012, 2014; Soft skills per il governo dell’agire, 2014). She has been
involved in various projects at international level: Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership.
eLene4work: Learning to learn for new digital soft skills for employability
(2014-17); Erasmus+ Knowledge Alliances. European Ict Sector Skills Alliance
Vet Open Course For Mobile Apps Creators (2014-17); Erasmus Mundus
Project Inter-Hed — The Internationalisation of Higher Education (2012-14); EU
Lifelong Learning Programme. ModEs-Modernising Higher Education through
Soft Skills Accreditation (2009-12).
Tuning Journal for Higher Education
© University of Deusto. ISSN: 2340-8170 • ISSN-e: 2386-3137. Volume 3, Issue No. 2, May 2016, 389-427
doi: 10.18543/tjhe-3(2)-2016pp389-427 • http://www.tuningjournal.org/
“Lost in translation”. Soft skills development in European
countries
Maria Cinque
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Copyright for this article is retained by the Publisher. It is an Open Access material that is free for
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are clearly indicated.
... Près de cinquante ans plus tard, le flou autour des soft skills persiste, alors que leur désirabilité ne cesse de croître (Deming, 2017). En définir les contours s'avère délicat puisqu'elles comprennent des habiletés socio-émotionnelles, interpersonnelles et cognitives (Cinque, 2016). Sont par exemple considérées comme des soft skills la capacité à résoudre des problèmes de façon créative, la capacité à exercer son esprit critique, la capacité à collaborer débat (Lafer, 2004). ...
... Les soft skills sont parfois assimilées à l'intelligence émotionnelle (Cinque, 2016) et, inversement, l'intelligence émotionnelle est considérée comme une soft skill (Chamorro-Premuzic et al., 2010;Cimatti, 2016;Cotet et al., 2017;Gibert et al., 2017). L'intelligence émotionnelle a été conceptualisée par Salovey & Mayer (2007;. ...
... Les compétences relationnelles sont un secteur clé des soft skills car elles contribuent à l'atteinte des objectifs organisationnels, notamment celles qui sont liées au leadership, à la gestion d'équipe et des relations sociales (Cotet et al., 2017;Kantrowitz, 2005). Les soft skills relationnelles apparaissent d'autant plus importantes en contexte de transformation qu'elles contribuent à gérer les situations incertaines (Cinque, 2016;Vaughan, 2017). Parmi les soft skills relationnelles, la communication, la collaboration et la gestion des conflits sont particulièrement prisées, y compris dans des domaines techniques comme la recherche scientifique ou la médecine (Gade & Chari, 2013;Gibert et al., 2017). ...
Thesis
The links between soft skills, adaptation and performance are widely recognized, but the psychological mechanisms underlying these links have not yet been examined precisely, especially given that the definition and content of soft skills remain unclear. This research begins by gathering the consensual elements on soft skills to propose an updated definition, emphasizing the fact that they are transversal, non-technical competencies and that they can include an implicit part in their implementation and development, underlining the interest of making them explicit. Then we establish a taxonomy of soft skills based on a systematic review of the literature. This taxonomy allows us to corroborate the potential implicit part of soft skills and to highlight the need to clarify their definition. Combined with a survey of experts in organizational transformation, this study conceptually and empirically documents the links between soft skills and adaptive performance. Our second empirical study highlights the positive impact of a soft skills awareness workshop on self-efficacy and adaptive performance in a sample of employees and managers of a large industrial group undergoing transformation. This study supports also the mediating role of self-efficacy on the impact that soft skills awareness has on adaptive performance. Our third study addresses the indirect positive impact that soft skills awareness can have in supporting self-efficacy in transformational stressful periods. It shows that general self-efficacy and self-efficacy concerning soft skills remain stable, are positively related to positive mood and adaptive performance, and negatively linked to negative mood during a longitudinal study of eight weeks of confinement considered as a period of stress and transformation. This study also highlights the mediating effect of positive affect on the positive impact of self-efficacy on adaptive performance. In conclusion, this work stresses the interest of circumscribing soft skills to competencies in order to keep their conceptual and socio-economic relevance. The possibility of a hierarchic taxonomy of soft skills in order to underscore the functional and structural links of this network of skills is discussed. The overlap between soft skills and other psychological constructs, especially constructs that broaden the scope of intelligence (emotional, social and practical intelligence) are discussed as well. The ways in which soft skills awareness can contribute to reduce students’ and professionals’ soft skills deficit are developed. Finally, the contribution of soft skills to the different dimensions of work performance is conceptually synthesized.
... Defining the term skills is no less of a challenge, as Cinque (2016) asserts that the terms 'skill' and 'competence' are often used interchangeably, although they can seldom be used synonymously. The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) 1 provides a set of descriptors relevant to qualifications, which also cover the concepts related to: ...
... This is one of the reasons why the notion of employability is increasingly gaining prominence and scholarly attention (cf. Chouc & Calvo, 2010;Cinque, 2016;Gonzalez, 2014;Katan, 2009;King, 2017;D. Li, 2007;X. ...
... The review also showed that managers require new graduates to possess a certain level of professional competence (Sedlan-König, Hocenski & Turjak, 2018). Graduates are expected to be able to apply theoretical knowledge in practice and in new situations (Cinque, 2016). In addition, managers also require graduates to be able to extrapolate from what has been learnt through previous experience (Seehan et al., 2018). ...
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... Numerous terms are used to denote this 'invariant'; they were arranged by Maria Cinque chronologically, with reference to organizations: Life skills (World Health Organization [10]. ...
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Il tema delle soft skills, con limiti e potenzialità, rappresenta una riproposizione delle virtù in chiave contemporanea. L'intento di questo testo-così come la strategia formativa della Fondazione Rui negli ultimi dieci anni-è quello di cavalcare questa opportunità inserendo il tema in un approccio in cui il ruolo guida viene assunto dalla sapienza e dalla saggezza. In-somma lo scopo è inserire le soft skills nel grande filone sapienziale che rappresenta il meglio che ogni cultura umana ha elaborato sull'arte di vivere. Un approccio non normativo, ma esortativo; non descrittivo, ma interpretativo; non positivistico, ma realista. In questo senso, l'opera si rivolge prima che allo studioso, proprio all'imprenditore, al poli-tico, all'uomo d'azione, al padre di famiglia e alla donna che cerca di conciliare i suoi molte-plici ruoli, o semplicemente a chi abbia l'ambizione e la voglia di cimentarsi nel tentativo di go-vernare, almeno in parte, il senso della propria esistenza… che poi è la vera impresa che tut-ti accomuna. In generale, l'approccio qui sostenuto alle soft skills propone un atteggiamento proattivo nei confronti della propria esistenza e del contesto sociale di riferimento, che si caratterizza per l'immergersi nel mondo, nell'accettare le sue sfide, nel giocare con le sue regole, liberan-dosi dai condizionamenti del contingente per sfidare se stessi, il mondo e soprattutto il proprio quotidiano in una gara al miglioramento, alla scoperta di sempre nuove potenzialità, al rag-giungimento di nuove mete.
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Introduction This paper focuses on how Scottish higher education institutions might design courses and programmes of study in ways that will nurture and develop desirable attributes in their graduates. Considerable effort has been expended in Scotland and internationally to describe graduate attributes, the skills, personal qualities and understanding to be developed through the higher education experience so as to prepare graduates for life and work in the 21st century. However, much less attention has been paid to how these attributes will be developed. This paper argues that the underpinning requirement for all attribute development is the students' ability to evaluate critically the quality and impact of their own work. This is true for attributes developed through the formal curricula and through co-curricula experiences. The evidence for this argument is derived from an analysis of the attribute descriptors of universities in Australia and in the UK. It is further argued that if courses and programmes are designed so that they foster this critical evaluative experience, then this will result in the simultaneous development of multiple attributes. The paper identifies some high-level assessment and feedback activities that would help foster critical evaluation and shows how any missing attributes can easily be brought into play through refinements of the tasks and activities that students engage in while they learn. The paper also highlights the benefits of this approach in terms of practicality, efficiency, transferability and the disciplinary embedding of attributes. It ends with a brief discussion about how to monitor opportunities for attribute development in courses and programmes.
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There is a common belief among university students that they have to study hard attempting to earn high grades because employers are targeting graduates with outstanding academic records. However, this idea does not seem to capture what is actually happening in organizations, as firms value more aspects related with personality and other personal qualities of young graduates. We present a case study of the hiring process of recent university graduates to test these hypotheses. The methodology used follows a two stage approach. Principal component analysis allows us to identify first key categories of skills and attributes that influence the selection process. Then, using econometric analysis, a matrix classifies them according to employer size and type, degree, position and industry. The results show that soft skills (personality and other qualities) are the most required attributes in the selection process. Good academic records only matter in the public sector.
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Unlabelled: A decade ago in these pages, Goleman published his highly influential article on emotional intelligence and leadership. Now he, a cochair of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations, and Boyatzis, a professor at Case Western, extend Goleman's original concept using emerging research about what happens in the brain when people interact. Social intelligence, they say, is a set of interpersonal competencies, built on specific neural circuits, that inspire people to be effective. The authors describe how the brain's mirror neurons enable a person to reproduce the emotions she detects in others and, thereby, have an instant sense of shared experience. Organizational studies document this phenomenon in contexts ranging from face-to-face performance reviews to the daily personal interactions that help a leader retain prized talent. Other social neurons include spindle cells, which allow leaders to quickly choose the best way to respond to someone, and oscillators, which synchronize people's physical movements. Great leaders, the authors believe, are those whose behaviors powerfully leverage this complex system of brain interconnectedness. In a handy chart, the authors share their approach to assessing seven competencies that distinguish socially intelligent from socially unintelligent leaders. Their specific advice to leaders who need to strengthen their social circuitry: Work hard at altering your behavior. They share an example of an executive who became socially smarter by embracing a change program that comprised a 360-degree evaluation, intensive coaching by an organizational psychologist, and long-term collaboration with a mentor. The results: stronger relationships with higher-ups and subordinates, better performance of her unit, and a big promotion.
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When parents are asked what they want for their children, they usually answer that they want their children to be happy. Why, then, is happiness rarely mentioned as a goal of education? This book explores what we might teach if we were to take happiness seriously as a goal of education. It asks, first, what it means to be happy and, second, how we can help children to understand it. It notes that we have to develop a capacity for unhappiness and a willingness to alleviate the suffering of others to be truly happy. Criticizing our current almost exclusive emphasis on economic well-being and pleasure, Nel Noddings discusses the contributions of making a home, parenting, cherishing a place, the development of character, interpersonal growth, finding work that one loves, and participating in a democratic way of life. Finally, she explores ways in which to make schools and classrooms cheerful places. Nell Noddings is Lee L. Jacks Professor of Education, Emerita, at Stanford University. She is past president of the Philosophy of Education Society and of the John Dewey Society. In addition to twelve books, she is the author of more than 170 articles and chapters on various topics ranging from the ethics of care to mathematical problem solving. Her latest books are Starting at Home: Caring and Social Policy (University of California Press) and Educating Moral People: A Caring Alternative to Character Education (Teachers College Press), both published in 2002.
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In this short and powerful book, celebrated philosopher Martha Nussbaum makes a passionate case for the importance of the liberal arts at all levels of education. Historically, the humanities have been central to education because they have rightly been seen as essential for creating competent democratic citizens. But recently, Nussbaum argues, thinking about the aims of education has gone disturbingly awry both in the United States and abroad. Anxiously focused on national economic growth, we increasingly treat education as though its primary goal were to teach students to be economically productive rather than to think critically and become knowledgeable and empathetic citizens. This shortsighted focus on profitable skills has eroded our ability to criticize authority, reduced our sympathy with the marginalized and different, and damaged our competence to deal with complex global problems. And the loss of these basic capacities jeopardizes the health of democracies and the hope of a decent world. In response to this dire situation, Nussbaum argues that we must resist efforts to reduce education to a tool of the gross national product. Rather, we must work to reconnect education to the humanities in order to give students the capacity to be true democratic citizens of their countries and the world. Drawing on the stories of troubling--and hopeful--educational developments from around the world, Nussbaum offers a manifesto that should be a rallying cry for anyone who cares about the deepest purposes of education.
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This paper summarizes recent evidence on what achievement tests measure; how achievement tests relate to other measures of "cognitive ability" like IQ and grades; the important skills that achievement tests miss or mismeasure, and how much these skills matter in life. Achievement tests miss, or perhaps more accurately, do not adequately capture, soft skills-personality traits, goals, motivations, and preferences that are valued in the labor market, in school, and in many other domains. The larger message of this paper is that soft skills predict success in life, that they causally produce that success, and that programs that enhance soft skills have an important place in an effective portfolio of public policies.