Research shows that employers are facing an ill-equipped emerging workforce. The skills that are deficient in most recent high school and college graduates’ repertoires are referred to as applied or “soft” skills. Proficiency in areas of leadership, teamwork, critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making are all under the soft skills umbrella.
Economists James Heckman and Flavio Cunha explained in the America’s Promise Alliance report that these soft skills are just as essential to a young person’s success as the more frequently cited academic indicators. In fact, both federal and international commissions have concluded that these skills are essential prerequisites for high school graduates to enter the workforce successfully. Unfortunately, there exists today a significant gap between the level of soft skills that future workers need and the level of these skills that they now possess. According to "Are They Ready to Work?" three-quarters of surveyed employers said that incoming high school graduates were deficient in these "applied skills." Additionally, 40 percent of employers said that the high school graduates they hire lack enough of the “soft” skills they need even for entry-level jobs. The data showed that young people lack not only the skills themselves but important opportunities to develop them.
More than 7,000 youth have participated in the Career Edge Program. After completing the program, participants showed significant improvement in:
- ability to make good decisions,
- ability to solve problems effectively,
- leadership skills
- ability to set and achieve goals, and
- awareness of their ability to contribute when working as part of a team.
In regards to career skills, participants believed that they were more likely to know how to fill out a job application, how to dress appropriately for a job interview, what types of jobs or careers fit their personal interests and that their school subjects had a direct effect on their future career choices and success.