The faltering economy and increasingly competitive job market have changed the way parents and educators prepare students for the real world. Youth employment initiatives and job training programs for youth are rising in popularity as the world adjusts to these demands and makes plans to send a new generation into the working world.

Many companies have discovered the competitive advantages of having youth employees in workplace settings and actively seek younger candidates. Employers recognize that youthful candidates bring a fresh perspective to an organization and also have valuable technology skills that can revolutionize a company. Even with these marketable advantages, a candidate must find a way to stand out from the crowd to land the job. It’s important that parents and educators take an active role in preparing youth for this process. One way they can help youth successfully prepare for the job market is to help children with the development of soft skills. A recent study found that 63 percent of employers base a hiring decision on the candidate’s soft skills. Here are a few ways you can help develop this important skill set:

Encourage Relevant Course Work

One of the best ways to teach soft skills is through specific soft-skills related course material. Many schools offer classes in public speaking, written and verbal communication and psychology. All of these courses provide excellent information on soft skills development and help create an awareness of skills like the importance of listening, making eye contact, pronunciation, adjusting communication style and presenting thoughts and ideas in a coherent way. These are all very valuable assets to an employer and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Find a Mentor

Another way to encourage the development of soft skills is through a mentorship program. Mentors serve as fabulous reminders of the end goal. They can guide a young person through the development process, teach life-skills and identify strengths as well as areas of improvement. They are also generally in high profile positions and can help a young person understand what skills and experiences are needed to successfully land a job. In addition to the skills-based learning, a mentor also provides many other benefits including: increased self-esteem and confidence and  improved relationships skills. All of these factors play a huge role in a young person’s ability to be successful in both life and the workplace.

Volunteer Work

Volunteer work is a great way to develop soft skills. Plus, it looks great on a resume. Volunteer work shows a concern for the greater good and a willingness to be a team player for little or no personal gain. As a volunteer, a young person can learn the importance of follow-through, punctuality, camaraderie, teamwork and written and verbal communication. These are all valuable workplace skills that can be garnered in a low pressure environment. In volunteering, young people learn relevant soft skills and also gain life-long friendships and an appreciation for volunteerism.

Join a Team Activity

Teamwork is a huge part of a company’s culture and its ability to succeed. Many employers want to know if you can effectively work in a group setting and accomplish an assigned task. Participation in some sort of team-based extracurricular is a great way to demonstrate this skill set. Child who join team-related activities like sports, drama and theater or the school band will develop skills that can pay off later on. All of these activities teach the importance of working together to achieve a larger goal.

Promote Creative Endeavors

Another soft skill employer’s would like to see is the ability to effectively solve complex problems. Problem solving requires the ability to think critically in creative ways. Child who pursue a creative hobby like music, creative writing or painting develop creative skills early on. These hobbies help develop the right and more creative side of the brain which will contribute to problem solving capabilities. Building this side of the brain allows youths to express their ideas in a creative way, and make them more apt to transfer this development to a real-world working environment.

As you’ve seen, the most current employment research makes it clear that soft skills are extremely valuable when it comes to finding and maintaining a job. The data suggests that the importance of soft skills training can’t be underestimated and should be fostered at home and in schools. These are just a few of the many ways you can help prepare today’s youth for the competitive job market.


About the author
Emily currently works at Australian company in a position of Human Resources Coordinator. During her academic year, she studied Human Resources Development and Leadership. She has spent few years working in this field. Emily is now writing for yourtown Community Services, the Australia’s organisation that provides a range of services to young people.

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