Opinion
Education Opinion

Social Skills Are Critical For Future Job-Seekers

By Learning Is Social & Emotional Contributor — August 15, 2018 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

By Pam Roy

When my three daughters were young, they had a tradition of individual, one-on-one dinners with their grandparents each week. As my eldest daughter moved from 3rd to 4th grade, she had more homework and projects to complete and time for these dinners became harder to create. We believed so much in the value of these relationships that my husband and I did something radical: we changed schools.

We moved our girls to a small, alternative education school with a stated “no homework” policy. While they had to read each night and prepare for tests, there was none of the endless busywork. Most importantly, they had time--time to develop relationships with both family and friends. We knew these social skills were essential to their lifelong health and well-being and that they could only be gained through personal interactions, not from studying a textbook.

Too often, socializing is considered the enemy of learning and discouraged in classrooms. Yet we are profoundly social creatures, according to Matthew Lieberman, UCLA neuroscientist and author of Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect. He asserts that our need to connect with others, starting as newborns, is critical to our survival. Lieberman says:

To the extent that we can characterize evolution as designing our modern brains, this is what our brains were wired for: reaching out to and interacting with others. These are design features, not flaws.

The current education system frequently demands that time is spent on academic endeavors after school and on weekends, limiting the time available for developing social skills. We now know that a lack of social skills in childhood is a leading indicator of loneliness and depression in adolescents.

Our cultural emphasis on cognitive learning at the expense of equally important non-cognitive human factors has widespread implications for our children’s future. A recent Washington Post article, “The surprising thing Google learned about its employees--and what it means for today’s students,” provides insight into the need for these skills. In 2013, Google tested its hiring hypothesis by reviewing employee data since its incorporation in 1998 and found surprising results:

Project Oxygen shocked everyone by concluding that, among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver, and being able to make connections across complex ideas.

Further support for non-cognitive development comes from new research entitled, “The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market,” by David Deming, Professor of Education and Economics at Harvard. Deming finds:

The labor market increasingly rewards social skills. Between 1980 and 2012, jobs requiring high levels of social interaction grew by nearly 12 percentage points as a share of the U.S. labor force. Math-intensive but less social jobs - including many STEM occupations - shrank by 3.3 percentage points over the same period.

The boundaries between school and home have blurred in the past few decades. The homework load, in particular, has dictated how we prioritize our children’s time outside of the classroom. We need to find a balance that allows time for the development and nurturing of relationships and the essential learning they provide. Together, parents and schools can ensure that students have this time by reallocating some of the hours devoted to school-related work.

At home, we can model the importance of investing in relationships, while carefully reviewing the time required of academic course loads and structured extracurricular activities. At school, we can advocate for a review of homework policies as well as reward systems, such as honors assemblies and rankings, which encourage heavy workloads and individual achievement over collaboration.

My eldest daughter is now entering her senior year of college. I know that those grandparent dinners and time spent with family and friends helped her develop the skills needed to thrive academically and socially. She, along with the rest of her generation, will need these skills as they enter a dramatically transforming economy. Machines are increasingly replacing routine tasks, but they cannot replace the unique qualities of human interaction. Helping our children learn to connect with others is not only critical for their lifelong health and well-being, it is essential to their success in the workplace of tomorrow.

Photo: The author’s daughters decorate a cake with their grandmother. (Courtesy of Pam Roy)

Pam Roy writes about parenting, education and career planning on pamroyblog.com. She is the founder of Square One Pathways, dedicated to helping high school students, young adults and at-risk/foster youth find well-paying career paths.

The opinions expressed in Learning Is Social & Emotional are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Trauma-Informed Practices & the Construction of the Deep Reading Brain
Join Ryan Lee-James, Ph.D. CCC-SLP, director of the Rollins Center for Language and Literacy, with Renée Boynton-Jarrett, MD, ScD., Vital Village Community Engagement Network; Neena McConnico, Ph.D, LMHC, Child Witness to Violence Project; and Sondra
Content provided by Rollins Center

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Hundreds of Conn. Bus Drivers Threaten to Walk Off the Job Over Vaccine Mandate
More than 200 school bus drivers could walk off the job in response to a vaccination mandate that goes into effect Monday.
1 min read
Rows of school buses are parked at their terminal, in Zelienople, Pa. Reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic means putting children on school buses, and districts are working on plans to limit the risk.
Rows of school buses are parked at their terminal, in Zelienople, Pa. Reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic means putting children on school buses, and districts are working on plans to limit the risk. <br/>
Keith Srakocic/AP Photo
Education Briefly Stated: September 22, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)