The Skills We Forgot

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Maybe tests focus too much on technical skills and not enough on soft skills.

I think “soft skills” are just as important as technical skills, even for engineers.

Recently, one of my friends shared an article showing that students in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) are smarter than majors such as education, journalism, agriculture, and business. Even as a computer science major, I was immediately skeptical of the article’s findings.

The tests referenced in the article can’t qualitatively rank how “smart” a person is (if such a thing can be measured). Naturally, students trained in analyzing questions (engineers) will perform better when asked to compute, say, the derivative of a logarithmic function. More importantly, the tests did not measure soft skills, such as empathy, creativity, communication, charisma, or leadership.

Software development is a team activity. Everyone knows that development teams need to communicate clearly, but how often is that tested in classrooms?

I think that soft skills are tested implicitly. Implicit tests include daily activities, such as reading a classmate’s body language, writing an email to a professor, and empathizing with teammates. Unfortunately, soft skills cannot be extensively tested in interviews (or if they are, they rarely give the complete picture).

I don’t think testing soft skills will automatically solve problems. Soft skills can’t be easily tested, nor do I think more testing will automatically make students better at “creativity.”

My point is this: although soft skills are not explicitly tested, they’re just as important to engineers as technical knowledge.

Do you think universities or companies focus too much on technical skills? Or do you think it is fitting that technical skills are more widely-tested?

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4 Responses to The Skills We Forgot

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