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THE IMPORTANCE OF SOFT SKILLS IN TECHNICAL EDUCATION

Conference Paper · October 2015

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Danijela Pezer
University Department of Professional Studies, University of Split, Croatia
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7th International Scientific and Expert Conference TEAM 2015
Technique, Education, Agriculture & Management
Belgrade, October 15-16, 2015

THE IMPORTANCE OF SOFT SKILLS IN TECHNICAL


EDUCATION
Danijela Pezer
Department of Industrial Engineering, Mechanical Engineering Faculty in Slavonski Brod, University of
Osijek, Croatia,
dpezer@sfsb.hr

Abstract
2. Soft skills vs. hard skills
Today, the global market requires, besides develo-
Hard skills are technical procedures which are
ped technical skills, development of soft skills,
easy to observe, quantify and measure, while soft
which became a core skills of engineers in the
skills provides a holistic approach for technical
team-based environments. Study programs facing
education. Hard skills are skills acquired by learning
the challenge, how in the most creative and inno-
and through the practical work, while soft skills
vative way (with regard to the 21st century),
including interaction with other people. Soft skills is
prepare the future mechanical engineers for the
much harder to measure (evaluate) and it is more
labor market. The paper gives a brief overview of
difficult to acquire, but once acquired, significantly
the difference between the technical (hard) and
facilitate the application of the hard skills in practice.
non-technical (soft) skills, the importance of emo-
Soft skills, as opposed to hard skills related to the
tional intelligence in business, and the develop-
professional knowledge acquired with education,
ment of soft skills in technical environment.
are developing through the constant self-develop-
Keywords: Soft skills, hard skills, technical ment and are applicable in various fields of life. For
education, emotional intelligence, teamwork improving the soft skills it is necessary to manage of
motivation/self-motivation, develop and improve per-
1. Introduction
sonal efficiency when performing tasks and achie-
In order to successfully cope with demands of ving the objectives, develop methods and techni-
today's society, from the individual is expected to ques to improve working methods and the effecti-
adopt and develop a wide variety of competences veness of the time using, adopt the methods and
that allow him to rapid adaptation to new social and communicating techniques and presentation skills,
professional requirements. The rapid development understand the importance of stress management,
of technology and globalization processes make daily and in business life, improve negotiation skills
demands for the development of those competen- and the basics of teamwork.
ces of individuals that will provide them individual Examples of hard skills include [1]:
success, but also contribute to the success of soci- ƒ proficiency in a foreign language
ety in general. If you want to be recognized in the ƒ a degree or certificate
ƒ typing speed (writing, reading)
ƒ measuring and calculating
competitive environment, it is necessary to possess

ƒ analyzing data
skills that will make you stand out from other candi-

ƒ machine operation
dates. These skills are called soft skills, and are

ƒ ability to use software programs (computer


necessary for quality management of our own busi-
ness and personal development. Exactly these
skills, employers estimate as a core skills, and when programming).
Examples of soft skills include [2]:
ƒ effective written and oral communications
hiring, these particular skills can be crucial when

ƒ critical thinking
selecting person who would complement, and well

ƒ information management skill and life-long


incorporate in their business environment. Emplo-
yers believe that soft skills are highly desirable qua-
learning
ƒ problem solving and decision making
lities of employees for effective business interaction

ƒ leadership skills
among co-workers, and if you do not possess of

ƒ teamwork skills
these skills (regardless of the acquired professional

ƒ ethical behaviour.
knowledge), they consider that the presentation of
your hard skills may not be adequate. Soft skills
creates the new possibilities and opportunities of Figure 1, [3], shows a comparison of the hard
career improving, because today is necessary rise and soft skills.
not only as a specialist but also as a person.

D. Pezer 75
7th International Scientific and Expert Conference TEAM 2015
Technique, Education, Agriculture & Management
Belgrade, October 15-16, 2015

Figure 1. Representation of soft and hard skills

3. Emotional intelligence According to [4], emotional intelligence can be


divided into four quadrants based on the model
Emotional intelligence towards [4], is a set of
with a total of 18 competencies. Studies show that
emotional skills which allow us to choosing the
leaders should have a high level of competence in
correct manner of use feelings and unconscious ins-
six core areas in order to be effective (Table 1).
tinctive mechanisms to interact with other people as
The six core areas for leadership and most
well as the understanding of yourself. This type of
critical aspects of emotional intelligence are:
ƒ Emotional Self Awareness
intelligence involves knowledge of what you feel and
ƒ Accurate Self Assessment
use your own feelings to make good life decisions,
ƒ Self Confidence
and represents the ability of good management
ƒ Emotional Self Control
moods and the urge control based on the aware-
ƒ Empathy
ness of our own feelings in the moment of events.
ƒ Influencing Others.
The basic components of emotional intelligence are:
ƒ recognizing (the ability to recognize your own
emotional state), 4. Soft skills in technical education
ƒ using (knowing how to motivate yourself to create
Due to the competition of global markets, soft
your best performance),
ƒ understanding (sense the emotions in others),
skills no longer just nice to have, but it is necessa-
ƒ emotion managing (develop productive relation-
ry to have, and development of the same skills
sets more like imperative to engineers, because
ship with other people).
that skills are contributing to a more successful
For achieving the business success, ahead of
business. Universities are mostly focused on
conventional intelligence, priority is given to organi-
teaching professional information prior than soft
zations (companies, institutions) directed to emo-
skills such as creativity, problem solving, personal
tional intelligence, while significantly reducing the
communication, writing and the ability to speak.
time required for product development and placing
Students generally learn how to become an
it on the market, if there is a built emotional com-
engineer, and less focus is on the soft skills.
petence in development teams. It also contributes
Without soft skills, each graduate engineer is
to increased productivity, better quality innovation
faced with too many problems in their professional
and return on investment through new strategies
life, because he can't communicate effectively,
and technologies.
team work and solve problems – thus, students
Companies for that reason, require not only a
should acquire soft skills prior that they graduate.
professional and competent people, but also those
The term, social interaction in heterogeneous
who have the emotional maturity to successfully
groups [5] refers to an individual's ability to coope-
cope with the complexities, ambiguities, uncertain-
rate with others and well-managed relationships for
ties, risks and variety of modern times, and those
personal well-being but also for the establishment
who know how to motivate and keep the other
of new forms of cooperation. This competence
talented people.
shares common features with the so-called "social
It is important to emphasize that emotional
competence", "social skills" or "soft skills".
intelligence is a skill that can be developed.

76 The Importance of Soft Skills in Technical Education


7th International Scientific and Expert Conference TEAM 2015
Technique, Education, Agriculture & Management
Belgrade, October 15-16, 2015

Table 1. Daniel Goleman's 4 quadrant model of emotional intelligence


SELF AWARENESS SOCIAL AWARENESS
Emotional Self Awareness Empathy
Accurate Self Assessment Organizational Awareness
Self Confidence Service Orientation
SELF MANAGEMENT RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT
Emotional Self Control Influencing others
Transparency Developing others
Adaptability Inspirational Leadership
Achievement Orientation Conflict Management
Initiative Teamwork/Collaboration
Optimism Change Catalyst

The social competence is possible and thus Soft skills will help students in a lot of the situations
necessary to develop in the framework of educa- that will face them in the working environment.
tion. According to [4], social competence is part of According to [7], there are 29 soft skills which are
emotional intelligence, and includes knowledge most frequently cited in scientific papers as crucial:
and reflect on their own feelings in making good 1. Communication (oral and written)
decisions in life, but also the skills of persuasion 2. Analytical and problem solving
and leadership of others, and the ability of non- 3. Team player
violent conflict resolution. Although sharing some 4. Team work
common features, it is necessary to distinguish the 5. Management skills
social competence of the social skills. 6. Interpersonal (presentation, listening,
The skills comprise specific behaviors of indivi- negotiation skills)
duals (e.g. tolerance, nonviolent conflict resolution, 7. Innovative and creative
constructive communication), while competence is 8. Self-learning
determined by the way of the individual uses of 9. Open and adaptive
skills in a social environment. We can say that the 10. Leadership
individual is socially competent if using social skills 11. Organizational
in an appropriate manner and at the same time suc- 12. Planning
cessfully achieving a crucial personal objectives, [5]. 13. Ability to work under independently
Students can acquire soft skills through the 14. Fast learning
extracurricular activities such as sports activities 15. Critical thinking
where they learn about being a team responsibility 16. Work under pressure
and adapting, volunteer work that helps improve 17. Decision making
communication skills and work ethic (not work for 18. Design above functional level
money), art that develops creativity and teaches 19. Shared beliefs and trust
the effective use of time and available resources, 20. Emotional intelligence
international and domestic travel that enhance 21. Commitment
planning skills and so on [6]. 22. Research
Students are the adults, built persons, and as 23. Concern with quality
such are, they enrolling the study and come with 24. Cross-cultural skills
some embedded behavior patterns, and thus more 25. Legal skills
difficult accept the changes related to their beha- 26. Awareness skills
vior. On the development of soft skills therefore 27. Language skills (written communication)
should commence at the earliest age of a child's 28. Ethical, political, and economical skills
life, when it is a natural to adopt some certain be- 29. Outsourced management skills.
havior that is now popularly called soft skills, of In the top are the communication skills, and
course, adapted to the current age, and upgrade problem solving skills as well as teamwork. The
the same throughout their schooling. It is very im- term, teamwork, refers to work in a team composed
portant to every child/person watch as an indivi- of competent people who possess the knowledge
dual and remain in compliance with its personality. necessary to achieve the defined objective, where
Soft skills are the skills which can be mastered, each person is responsible for the activities defined
and even in later years, but many times it's forget by the project, respects the creative ideas of other
that this is a process that takes time. These are coworkers without inappropriate behavior, because
skills that can not be adopted overnight, but should the ultimate goal should be for all participants the
be built gradually and naturally, in real situations, same - a quality job done.
at real problems. How much is a parental effort Group/team work should be more present in the
(and constant repetition) children need to adopt the process of education of future engineers (must be
habits of good behavior and what is most important taken to ensure that the groups/teams are consis-
- to know how to apply it at the right time. ting of students with equal competences and per-

D. Pezer 77
7th International Scientific and Expert Conference TEAM 2015
Technique, Education, Agriculture & Management
Belgrade, October 15-16, 2015

sonalities that do not happen that individuals who materials, learning from personal experience [8].
"stand out" must take all the work and responsibility There can be classified and associations such as
while others are "spared" and equally receive a the Alumni club, which brings together all the
merits - this is not a healthy working atmosphere graduates (engineers) of certain institutions with the
and is usually frustrating and demotivating for those aim to connect and share experiences and prob-
who do all the work). lems, whose members should be include more
Students, especially at graduate studies, should (through invited lectures, panel discussions) to work
be more involved in smaller projects (in which they with students to create a true picture of the "outside
can participate based on already acquired profes- world", and about what awaits them after their
sional knowledge in order to feel useful and with graduation, the importance of lifelong learning and
faith that they really up to the task - otherwise it can to prepare them at professional life.
only lead to a drop in self-esteem and thus to a Students should enable the conditions for the
motivation decrease, and ultimately giving up, as for acquisition of soft skills, motivating them and putting
the labor market can mean the loss of inventive in front of challenges, in which they will solve the
people if they are not handled in the right way - given problems using the same skills.
individual) because that is the best way to prepare The importance of soft skills can be presented to
them for the labor market, which nowadays is really students on the real-world examples that are directly
demanding. related to their field of study, noting that teams that
Each student should be present at each lecture work well, provide a more effective technical solu-
and participate in discussions (pay special attention tions at customer satisfaction.
to involved those who shy, withdrawn). Teaching
5. Conclusion
jobs, in addition to being pedagogically oriented, is
complex because it requires psychologists knowled- In modern society is increasingly coming to the
ge and knowing how to access to any of the stu- fore the importance of successful interaction with
dents at individual manner (prefer to work in smaller others and the establishment of high-quality profes-
groups). In the classroom should be reign friendly sional and personal relationships. Therefore, when
atmosphere, not the fear (which does not mean that trying to define basic competencies to be developed
the interaction between the students and the during obligatory education (not only technical edu-
teacher should be at the level of peers). Students cation), social competence is recognized as one of
should recognize that the teacher is there for them the core.
and their future and the future of all of us that we Activities that promote effective communication
prosper as a society if we develop young creative soft skills in technical education may not be availab-
people of them, which we will leave the future, not le to a greater extent in today's programs, but sup-
for the reason of intimidation to show the hierarchy port for these skills is essential in building the labor
or because someone believe that is the way to force of the future. With changes from somewhere
achieve respect - counterproductive. Teachers, first need to start, the best of ourselves. The teachers
of all should be consistent (not easy, but it is worth), are an example for our students, and when the
stick to the agreement, and to be honest with his students hiring, in some way they send out a picture
students, in order to develop mutual trust. of faculty which are attended and the way how we
Students should enable presentation of their treated to them in the five years spent together. We
works, not only through individual courses, presen- wish that our students ultimately be even better
ting in a classroom in front of their generational (more mature, more responsible, more self-aware,
colleagues, but also through the public tribunes, amicable) than when they came to our institution.
meetings, conferences (one of the example who Therefore, the primary objective of the curriculum
has been successfully implemented for 9 years con- of technical education to prepare engineers for the
secutive, at the Mechanical Engineering Faculty in labor market of the 21st century, where except
Slavonski Brod, the event, called Mechanical chal- specific professional knowledge, requires the pos-
lenge in cooperation with industry, where students session of soft skills in order to be ready for the
have the opportunity to present their work to a wider challenges that await them in a competitive global
audience, which is good for the growth of their self- work environment.
esteem and development of soft skills). Changes should not be afraid, especially those
Students ultimately should be referred in what which lead to improving, success.
that awaits them in a job interview, appropriate
dress manner (dress code), self-presentation, gene- 6. References
rally a way of communicating in order to understand
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78 The Importance of Soft Skills in Technical Education


7th International Scientific and Expert Conference TEAM 2015
Technique, Education, Agriculture & Management
Belgrade, October 15-16, 2015

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D. Pezer 79

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