Demand for soft skills is on the rise, says BIBAs sponsor, Preston College

Earlier this year, the Lancashire Local Skills Improvement Plan, LSIP, reported on key technical skills gaps in the county that need addressing in order to maximise economic opportunities. But employers are also seeking ‘soft skills’ too.

There is no defined or agreed list of soft skills, but the term is generally used to refer to abilities beyond the technical know-how and subject-matter knowledge a person needs to do their job.

As hybrid and remote working brought about by the Covid pandemic become more common, and with the way teams collaborate, communicate and innovate having all changed, companies are placing growing importance on these intangible qualities, both within their existing workforce and among new recruits.

Simon Nixon, Interim Principal and Chief Executive at Preston College, sponsor of the Employer of the Year Award in this year’s Be Inspired Business Awards, the BIBAs, said: “Hard technical skills will always be needed, and it’s very clear from our own work and that of the Lancashire LSIP that businesses across the county want course provision to better meet employer needs.

“Studying a short course or an apprenticeship helps businesses to ensure that their employees have the technical knowledge and hard skills needed in their industry, but they also need those people to have a positive work ethic and be effective team players, good communicators and adaptable, which is often more about mindset.

“Our courses and apprenticeship programmes at Preston College embed the development of skills, attitudes and behaviours.This ensures that when our learners complete their programme, they are confident individuals who are work ready and are able to bring both the hard skills and the desirable softer skills to their role.”

A 2021 review of more than 80 million job postings across 22 industry sectors found that almost two-thirds of the positions listed included soft skills among the qualifications being sought by employers. Of the 10 most in-demand skills listed in the job postings, seven were soft skills that included communication, problem-solving and planning.

The findings are echoed in job site Monster’s The Future of Work 2021: Global Hiring Outlook, which revealed soft skills such as collaboration, dependability and flexibility are among the skills employers prize most highly in employees, but that they find accessing candidates with these soft skills to be challenging.

Pamela Steed at Monarch Personnel, a Chorley-based recruitment agency, agreed and said: “Whilst it’s important for businesses to hire people that are able to do the job, how they do it is also crucial.

“For instance, while a tanker driver employed to collect hazardous chemical waste needs to have the technical know-how to perform the task, they also need to have a safety-first attitude and a natural instinct for following procedures with no likelihood of cutting corners.

“Employers ‘get’ this more and more, but have struggled with the practicalities of it when recruiting, which is why we’ve invested in mapping mindsets and behaviours for a wide range of the roles we typically recruit for, and state-of-the-art technology for sourcing and then assessing candidates and their soft skills.”

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Demand for soft skills is on the rise, says BIBAs sponsor, Preston College
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