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THE SKILLS OF THE FUTURE WORK LIFE – RECOGNIZING AND ASSESSING SOFT SKILLS IN HIGHER EDUCATION

C. Tigerstedt, S. Fabricius

Arcada UAS (FINLAND)
In many reports (OECD 2017, SITRA 2018, Deloitte, 2108 etc) we have been reading about the skills needed in the future work life. For some time already, reports have stressed the importance of the soft skills, or the generic skills. Forbes (2017) for example mentions soft skills like communication skills, problem solving skills, teamwork skills and competiveness. These skills are very much needed, but somehow still difficult to recognize and assess among higher education students. Hence, when entering work life students who have the soft skills are highly valued and needed.

One driver of the growing importance of these skills is the digitalization, which as such can be seen as a competitive advantage. Digitalization is changing the behavioral patterns in the companies and among all stakeholders. New jobs will occur and old ones will disappear. It is crucial to know and be able to develop the skills among the students and the employees in order to make sure that a solid and competent workforce is maintained. It is very important to discuss the changes we can see together with the soft skill development in order to better plan for the continuous education for coming and current employees. (OKM, 2019; OECD, 2018; World Economic forum 2016; Valtioneuvosto, 2018).

In this paper, we have looked into reports about the future work life as well as at soft skills’ definition, recognition and assessment. We have clustered soft skills or competences and developed self-evaluation tools to see how well students in higher education are prepared for the identified competences. The work started out with a systematical desktop research phase, continued with a more practical tools invention phase and finally ended with a piloting phase where four self-evaluation tools were tested among our business and IT students.

This development work is part of the Toteemi project where we aim at creating flexible study paths and enhance and increase competence utilization among the students. Here, a special focus is put on the soft skills and skills for the future work life assessment. The project as such is a part of our aim to make work life transition easier and to provide our students with the important skills of tomorrow.

The findings are reported in the form of soft skill clusters and (piloted) self-evaluation tools. The paper contributes with an insight into developing generic and soft skills among students as well as assessment of the same. The aim in the future is to offer concrete learning models that all our teachers could use in their daily work with the soft skills. It will be useful for anyone wanting to develop soft skills’ teaching and learning processes in higher education. The project and this research is continuing.