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Posts Tagged ‘soft skills

Soft skills? Broad learning skills: Bye bye STEM skills?

Google finds STEM skills aren’t the most important skills


  • Lou Glazer is President and co-founder of Michigan Future, Inc., a non-partisan, non-profit organization. Michigan Future’s mission is to be a source of new ideas on how Michigan can succeed as a world class community in a knowledge-driven economy. Its work is funded by Michigan foundations.

Washington Post column on research done by Google on the skills that matter most to its employees success. Big surprise: it wasn’t STEM. The Post writes:

Sergey Brin and Larry Page, both brilliant computer scientists, founded their company on the conviction that only technologists can understand technology.

Google originally set its hiring algorithms to sort for computer science students with top grades from elite science universities.

In 2013, Google decided to test its hiring hypothesis by crunching every bit and byte of hiring, firing, and promotion data accumulated since the company’s incorporation in 1998.

Project Oxygen shocked everyone by concluding that, among the 8 most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last.

The 7 top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills:

Like being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.

Those traits sound more like what one gains as an English or theater major than as a programmer.

Could it be that top Google employees were succeeding despite their technical training, not because of it?

After bringing in anthropologists and ethnographers to dive even deeper into the data, the company enlarged its previous hiring practices to include humanities majors, artists, and even the MBAs that, initially, Brin and Page viewed with disdain.

This is consistent with the findings of the employer-led Partnership for 21st Century Learning who describe the foundation skills for worker success as the 4Cs: collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity.

And the book Becoming Brilliant which adds to those four content and confidence for the 6Cs.

And consistent with the work on the value of a liberal arts degree of journalist George Anders laid out in his book You Can Do Anything and in a Forbes article entitled That Useless Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech’s Hottest Ticket.

It’s far past time that Michigan policymakers and business leaders stop telling our kids if they don’t get a STEM related degree they are better off not getting a four-year degree. It simply is not accurate.

(Not to mention that many of their kids are getting non-STEM related four-year degrees.)

And instead begin to tell all kids what is accurate that the foundation skills––as Google found out––are Not narrow occupation-specific skills, but rather are broad skills related to the ability to work with others, think critically and be a lifelong learner.

The kind of skills that are best built with a broad liberal arts education.

The Post concludes:

No student should be prevented from majoring in an area they love based on a false idea of what they need to succeed.

Broad learning skills are the key to long-term, satisfying, productive careers.

What helps you thrive in a changing world isn’t rocket science. It may just well be social science, and, yes, even the humanities and the arts that contribute to making you not just workforce ready but world ready.

Note: About time students takes seriously the importance of general knowledge in everything they undertake. Most important of all is to learn designing experiments, developing the experimental mind that does Not come naturally, but with training.

Youth Unemployment in Middle East and North Africa: How terrible is that trend?

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA region) face significant challenges when it comes to youth unemployment. A World Economic Forum report from 2012 notes, “Unemployment in the MENA region is the highest in the world…and largely a youth phenomenon.”

The Middle East and North Africa are not alone in terms of a serious lack of opportunity for many young people.

In the second quarter of 2012, the economically troubled European Union had a youth unemployment rate of 22.6%, as opposed to the OECD-wide average of 16.2 percent.

For example, Portugal had 38.7% youth unemployment, and Spain and Greece had staggering rates of 52.4 percent and 54.2%, respectively.

By contrast, the United States had 16.3 percent youth unemployment and Germany’s youth employment was an enviable 8.2 percent.

 posted on June 14, 2013

INSIGHT: Youth Unemployment in Middle East, North Africa

I’ve previously highlighted troubling trends in youth employment, including the problem of students whose lack of soft skills ( like apprenticeships?) preclude them from employment.

Employers’ dissatisfaction with the education levels of the workforce in GCC countries, and young Tunisians’ disillusionment with the opportunities available in their country and accompanying desire to emigrate.

To match Feature TUNISIA-UNEMPLOYMENT/

While some have raised issues with the way that these eye-popping European numbers are calculated (suggesting that the real rate is more like half of the headline numbers – but that’s still very high), there is little doubt that many youth – particularly in the MENA region and the struggling European economies – are losing out on economic opportunities, and consequently, hindering their lifetime earning potential.

“How should countries tackle youth unemployment? It’s an immense challenge, requiring solutions that will, at their best, involve private, public, and non-profit sectors.” – Isobel Coleman, Council on Foreign Relations

How should countries tackle youth unemployment? It’s an immense challenge, requiring solutions that will, at their best, involve private, public, and non-profit sectors.

Germany and Spain’s labor ministers should be praised for their pragmatism in brokering a deal that will give apprenticeships in Germany to some 5,000 unemployed Spanish young people yearly – a move that is also a win for Germany, which needs additional qualified employees as its labor pool shrinks.

take 7 INSIGHT: Youth Unemployment in Middle East, North Africa

Graph by author. Data are from ILO’s Global Employment Trends for Youth 2013 report. Regional data are from ILO’s 2012 preliminary estimates; U.S. and E.U. data are from the OECD’s second quarter 2012 data.

Non-profits are also pursuing interesting innovations with respect to tackling youth unemployment. LivelyHoods in Kenya, for instance, trains young people from Kenyan slums to sell useful products in their communities (e.g. solar lamps); the training includes vital business skills like customer service and financial literacy. In the Middle East and North Africa, Education for Employment connects young people to employers and also trains young people on finding jobs and on the soft skills that employers value. The organization has had particularly impressive results in high-unemployment Tunisia, where it began working in 2012: it has since graduated more than 540 Tunisians from its training programs and found employment for all of those in its job placement training program. The challenge, of course, is scaling up these initiatives.

Programs like these are particularly important because high levels of youth unemployment – in addition to limiting young people’s life prospects – stand to affect political trends, especially in countries that are transitioning to democratic rule. In a forthcoming book that I co-edited, Pathways to Freedom: Political and Economic Lessons From Democratic Transitions, one important takeaway is the critical role that inclusive economic development plays in sustaining democratic transitions. Libya’s plan to put billions of dollars towards funds that small and medium-sized businesses can access – in an explicit effort to create jobs – could help promote democratization there, especially if implemented in a transparent manner.

This post was originally published on blogs.cfr.org.

The views expressed in this Insight are the author’s own and are not endorsed by Middle East Voices or Voice of America. If you’d like to share your opinion on this post, you may use our democratic commenting system below. If you are a Middle East expert or analyst associated with an established academic institution, think tank or non-governmental organization, we invite you to contribute your perspectives on events and issues about or relevant to the region. Please email us through our Contact page with a short proposal for an Insight post or send us a link to an existing post already published on your institutional blog.

 INSIGHT: Youth Unemployment in Middle East, North Africa

Isobel Coleman

Isobel Coleman is senior fellow and director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative as well as director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. On Twitter, she can be followed at Isobel_Coleman.

Read more at Middle East Voices: http://middleeastvoices.voanews.com/2013/06/insight-youth-unemployment-in-middle-east-north-africa-86923/#ixzz2uKynpEjP


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