Soft Skills Demand and Supply Through the Lens of Higher Education Students
Keywords:Soft skills, Skills enhancement, higher education, gamification, Technology enhanced learning
Soft skills are becoming equally crucial as hard skills in today's labour market. In contrast to hard skills which are teachable typically through formal education, soft skills are non-technical and interpersonal, allowing individuals to be able to find and succeed in their studies, jobs, and professional life. Despite the increasing emphasis on soft skills, many university students are either unaware of or neglect enhancing them. Soft skills deficiency among university students has become a significant concern for employers, educators, and policymakers, as it negatively affects students' academic performance and future employment prospects. The purpose of this study is to investigate students’ perceptions of the demand for soft skills and the possibility and availability of learning opportunities. The expected outcomes intend to provide insights about awareness of soft skills among students and pathways to reduce the soft skills gap through training provisions in higher education settings. Furthermore, it aims to find out how the young generation (mainly Generation Z) would perceive digitalisation and specifically gamification as a solution to facilitate soft skills training. This is a mixed method study, in which, an open survey was the data collection media. The survey was conducted during the spring semester of 2023 and analysed using visualisation and summarisation methods. Based on the outcome of 66 master’s and bachelor's students attending the digitalisation courses in two classes in Sweden, over 50% of the students perceived a lack of soft skills in their curricula. They were also positive toward the use of gamification as an effective digital strategy, recognising it as a powerful tool to facilitate training and developing soft skills as a part of formal learning in higher education. As a suggested approach, gamifying soft skills training potentially creates simulations that mimic real-world situations to allow students to practice and develop their soft skills in a safe and low-stakes training environment. This facilitates training soft skills for better communication and collaboration during their academic journey and after their graduation and to prepare students for successful careers.