One of the most-used buzz words of the 21st century related to successful career outcomes is “soft skills.” Soft skills are defined as interpersonal or people skills and are considered very important in the corporate world because they help facilitate connections between people. While hard skills denote subject matter or technical skills needed to perform a job, soft skills denote skills that are needed for interaction with others at work. Communication, teamwork, adaptability, problem-solving, critical observation, conflict resolution, work ethic, professionalism, and leadership skills, among others, are considered essential soft skills for successful career outcomes. Traditional education emphasizes the development of soft skills as a way to prepare students for personal success in their careers.
Focusing solely on the benefits of soft skills to our students’ future careers fails to incorporate one of the primary goals of Adventist education, however: preparing students for service to God, their community, and their country, and for the life to come. In the Adventist educational context, soft skill development is based on personal and professional character development that includes the individual student’s spiritual and moral character building.
In Counsels for the Church, Ellen White affirms that children have a right to an education that will “make them useful, respected, and beloved members of society here and give them a moral fitness for the society of the pure and holy hereafter.” Because soft skill character building should be an ongoing and holistic process throughout life, the Adventist perspective that prepares students for moral fitness is important for Adventist education. Students who go through the Adventist education system should be encouraged in their holistic personal and professional character development, including the development of soft skills.
There is much promise for our Adventist educational institutions in embarking on projects that combine service and soft skill development. One way we work toward this goal at Pacific Adventist University is our Community at Development Excellence Training (CADET) program, a component of the Bachelor of Arts degree. Students are assisted in soft skill development and holistic character development through a semester-long process where a teacher guides students as they develop community development projects relevant to their academic discipline. During the summer breaks of the past 5 years, students have implemented water and sanitation projects, adult literacy projects, early childhood English libraries, and reading and phonics teaching projects that have transformed both the communities and the students themselves. Students involved in these projects grow in self-management, work attitude, professionalism and leadership, among other soft skills, while also developing their characters and being of service.
As the economic gap increases between various groups around the world, we as Adventist educators should focus our training of students on unselfish service, which can result in holistic character development. Students can engage in practical service to the lost and marginalized in society while also developing towards being useful members of their church and community.