PCS President’s Blog: What Works in the Workplace? Communication Competence and Technical Skills

By Julia Williams

[This post is republished here with permission from the IEEE Professional Communications Society. It was originally posted on 29 January 2014 on the the PCS President’s Blog.]

There has been a lot of conversation and consternation around one important issue: how can we best prepare college students for the world of work? Responses to a survey conducted by Bentley University through their PreparedU Project suggest that a combination of both interpersonal competencies and technical skills represents the best way to ensure that students are ready to take on jobs immediately following graduation. Allie Grasgreen, writing for Inside Higher Ed, reported on the study:

While 8 in 10 business leaders say soft skills are most important in an employee, and only 40 percent say hard skills are ‘very important’ to work place success, the majority also say they’d prefer to hire a recent grad with industry-specific skills over a liberal arts graduate who needs training.

This is interesting information to share with co-workers in the engineering workplace and colleagues in the academic environment, since the survey results argue for a combination of both skill sets. The survey did not address the best way to develop the skills, but my own experience points to a dual approach: communication focus in technical courses, as well as real-world job experience where a student can apply both soft and hard skills.

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IEEE-USA is an organizational unit of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE), created in 1973 to support the career and public policy interests of IEEE’s U.S. members. IEEE-USA is primarily supported by an annual assessment paid by U.S. IEEE Members.

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