In the past “soft skills” were dismissed as fluff—nice but not necessary for getting the job done. But in today’s business world, managers are finding that soft skills like good communication, conflict management, time management and a penchant for problem-solving are critical factors that impact productivity. Unfortunately, traditional classroom education doesn’t teach these skills, considering them to be personal characteristics that students should have been taught at home. This has led to what is called a “soft skills gap” in today’s workplace that has far-reaching consequences for both the employer and the employee.
How does the “soft skills gap” impact the workplace?
Just imagine what it would be like to work in an environment where:
- people don’t share information and communicate effectively;
- rude, impolite behavior is acceptable;
- routine disagreements escalate to open conflict;
- absenteeism, tardiness and missed deadlines are the norm; and
- problems are shuffled from one department or employee to another without solution.
In situations like this, production and service goals are missed, and supervisors spend all of their time refereeing and prodding employees to do their jobs.
Bruce Tulgan, author of Bridging the Soft Skills Gap, says there is a “a growing gap between the expectations of employers and the reality of how young talent is showing up in the workplace.”
If these soft skills aren’t being taught at home or in school, how do we teach them to the workforce of the future?
A better way of learning now will lead to more skilled employees in the future.
In order to close this skill gap, parents are increasingly looking for solutions beyond the four walls of their children’s schools and finding solutions with brands like Code Ninjas, a concept that teaches children ages 5-15 core coding skills through game development.
Founded in 2016 by then professional software developer David Graham, the concept was born out of watching his child participate in Tae Kwon Do and realizing that children learn better when they are faced with challenges that they have to overcome and can see the benefits of their efforts through achievement. Adopting a similar approach with the Code Ninjas curriculum, the brand has become the largest and fastest-growing kids coding franchise, with over 300 locations active internationally.
Part of the success of the brand has been not only its focus on core STEM skills around coding and programming, but also its focus on building digital literacy and the soft skills that are desperately needed to succeed in the future workforce. Through the game design challenges facing them throughout each belt, Ninjas (students) in the dojo (learning facility) learn problem solving, critical thinking, and essential logic skills in order to successfully work out solutions.
They also learn extremely valuable lessons in communicating these challenges to instructors and how to receive and respond to feedback on their projects. Throughout the program, they are collaborating with their peers, and we often see older Ninjas taking the younger, newer members under their wing to guide them through some of the more challenging bits of the curriculum.
By setting the stage at such an early age, especially when children are lacking exposure and guidance relative to these skills in the activities they do at school, these programs help to shape the mindset of the students, resulting in a more well-rounded individual who is capable of tackling complex challenges without feeling overwhelmed. More importantly, it reinforces in the children the importance and power of communication, collaboration, and tenacity in working at a problem until a solution is achieved.
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