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The right skills for the job: NAIT participates in new study

By Amy St. Amand

Standing out in today’s competitive job market requires more than a strong resume—employers also value strong social and emotional skills like communication, collaboration, and leadership. But often, these skills are not taught past the high school level, despite social and emotional skills being a crucial factor to employment and life success.

The Conference Board of Canada (CBoC) has partnered with several post-secondary institutions, including NAIT, to better understand what students and instructors think of social and emotional skills and how post-secondaries can better teach these important skills.

Michelle Gorea, senior CBoC research associate and lead of this project, says social and emotional skills are often called many different things. “They fall under an umbrella of terms, like employability skills, interpersonal skills or even sometimes called soft skills. But really, [social and emotional skills] are skills that are helpful on the job market.”

“We found that employers consistently rate social and emotional skills as some of the most important skills for their employees to have,” said Gorea.

The study will involve speaking to both instructors and students to learn more about their perspectives on social and emotional skills. “We want to know…what skills are popping up in conversations, why are these skills important…and how can college classroom instruction help in the development of these skills?” Gorea explained.

Learning about instructors’ and students’ perspectives on social and emotional skills will allow CBoC to look at the topic in a holistic way to help improve instruction of these skills in the future.

The knowledge will also help NAIT ensure their courses and programs address any skills gaps commonly identified by employers, said Sarah Stevenson Tweddle, portfolio manager for corporate and continuing education at NAIT. “The more understanding we have on what can be taught in a post-secondary environment, the better we can be at ensuring we include those topics in our curriculum,” said Stevenson Tweddle.

By participating in the interview, students and instructors will have a chance for self-reflection and the opportunity to learn some of the lingo used to discuss social and emotional skills. “This knowledge might also help participants better understand the communication of their own skills to potential employers,” said Gorea.

Students and instructors who are interested in participating in the study and have taken or taught a course in the past two years should email Erin MacPherson at macpherson@conferenceboard.ca. Interviews will be 45 minutes to an hour long and will take place online. Students that complete the interview will receive a $10 Amazon gift card, and instructors will be entered to win one of three $100 Amazon gift cards.

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