HR professionals cite need for dexterity in problem-solving, attention to detail, teamwork
Ontario'shigh schools are failing to provide students with the foundational soft skills required to succeed in their future entry-level jobs — 42 per cent of respondents in a survey of HR professionals acrossOntario said entry-level workers are insufficiently prepared for their role because they do not have the soft skills necessary.
Sixty-two per cent of respondents said problem-solving is the main skills missing, while 56 per cent cited attention to detail and 48 per cent cited interpersonal/teamwork skills, found the survey of 633 members of the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) in Toronto.
When asked to list the three most important soft skills required to succeed in entry-level jobs, respondents said “interpersonal skills/teamwork” was the most selected skill, at 70.1 per cent, followed by “attention to detail” at 61.7 per cent and “problem-solving” at 60 per cent.
And almost three-quarters (70.7 per cent) of respondents said high school curriculum changes could help students gain the specific skills that are missing.
While Ontario's secondary education system is designed to prepare students for the next stage of learning rather than to teach them how to join the workforce, the needs of employers should not be overlooked, said HRPA.
"The single greatest feedback from HR professionals called for students to be given greater experiential learning opportunities," said Bill Greenhalgh, CEO of HRPA, "and we must do more to create those opportunities. According to our research, more than one out of every three businesses is waiting to be asked to participate in a high school co-op or experiential learning opportunity.”
As to which hard skills are the most indicative of success in entry-level positions, the top three hard skills selected by respondents were “oral communication” (77.3 per cent), “writing proficiency” (62.5 per cent) and “database usage/management” (30 per cent).
HRPA’s paper, Next Steps for Improvement: Identifying the Gaps between Education and Employability in Ontario High Schools, makes a series of recommendations to government and industry to ensure students are better prepared to enter the workforce. These include making co-op programs mandatory courses and offering incentives to attract more businesses to participate in experiential learning opportunities.