Developing Soft Skills for Future Job Seekers
Written by Andrew Stokes, a Tierney PD team member. Andrew has been working in Education since 2011. He taught in both elementary and middle school, as well as coached high school baseball before joining Tierney.
3D printing has grown over the years in the education world. Students are able to design items as a group or individually using 3D design programs and then print those items using raw material, such as plastic, to get a tangible object that the student can then hold and manipulate. Through doing this students gain knowledge of different design programs, practice graphic design processes, and learn engineering skills. These hard traits are tangible and measurable outcomes of students practicing 3D printing in education. But, there are also skills that are developed beyond just the measurable hard skills.
Soft skills are not skills that are measured on paper, developed with a test, or skills that you take a class to learn. Soft skills are developed throughout your life during real life experiences. Experiences such as playing a sport, participating in an event, prior jobs, or just basic interaction with other people. These soft skills are difficult to measure, but can sometimes set you apart from other job candidates because many soft skills revolve around the importance of how a person relates and interacts with others. Three soft skills that can be developed through 3D printing in education are collaboration, problem solving, and leadership traits.
The soft skill collaboration considers how a person interacts with others when the group is working together to create something or solve a problem. The group has a common goal, but they may have different ideas of how to go about reaching this common goal. The key is how each person shares their ideas with each other and how the people react to other problem solving opinions being shared. When 3D printing, educators often propose the concept of creating something to solve a problem. As soon as groups are formed, collaboration comes into effect as teammates begin to design a build and ultimately print that build to solve the proposed problem.
Problem solving is another soft skill that can be developed through 3D printing. For example, a teacher proposes that teams of students design a sound amplification stand for phones to fit into.When this proposal is put forward, students begin problem solving the solution. This requires students to think about other types of sound amplification stands and what would cause sound to travel best through them. Is it a type of stand that has wide or narrow openings? Is it curved or straight? Should the amplification be pushed out to the top, or out the sides? The ability for a group to come up with a solution, test that solution, reflect on that solution, and then adjust is a soft skill that is greatly valued in the workplace.
When working in a group to solve a problem or come up with a solution, there are going to be many different ideas and voices proposing solutions at the same time. Very often, a leader can emerge from the group who can display certain traits that can help the problem solving process become more efficient. A leader could summarize ideas in order to make sure voices are heard, propose what first steps the group should take, or help solve disagreements between group members. These are all items that help the group stay focused on solving the proposed problem and help the group stay efficient.
Employers value employees who can relate well to others and develop positive relationships within the company. That being said, the importance of developing soft skills should never be underestimated. When it comes to future employment, soft skills can often set candidates apart from others and we should embrace tools that encourage the development of soft skill within our students.