Potential hires coming up short in 'soft skills', employers say

Employers in Ontario are struggling to hire people with the right skills for the job. Many say potential applicants aren't trained in soft skills like time management or problem solving.

Cambrian College, YMCA Employment Services offer training in time management, problem solving

Employers say people entering the workforce just don't have the qualifications they're looking for.

Earlier this month, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce released a report on the growing skills mismatch in the province.

The report offers recommendations for improving training in schools and apprenticeship programs, but there's another set of skills that employers say is lacking in applicants coming in for interviews: soft skills.

Young people just aren't taught these skills in school says Nancy Rivest, at YMCA Employment Services in Sudbury, Ont.

She explains that soft skills range from time management, problem solving, computer skills, flexibility in the workplace, self-confidence, and even interpersonal skills.

It's not that they don't have these skills, Rivest says. It's that they don't know how to apply and develop them in the workplace.

New hires have trouble with flexibility, teamwork, interaction

These abilities are not taught in school, so for some young people it's a challenge, particularly since the previous trend was employers who focused on hard skills.

Workers were hired for technical skills or their post-secondary education.

That is changing says Rivest.

"Employers saw that, yes, people had those skills, but they were having trouble doing teamwork. They were having trouble with the flexibility, the changes that were happening, " Rivest says.

The emphasis on soft skills is a newer employment trend.

That`s a sentiment echoed by Sudbury Chamber of Commerce spokesperson Tracey Nutt.

She says soft skills have a tremendous impact on the onboarding, and the success of employees in the workplace.

"Things as simple as adhering to start and end times, appearance in the workplace, and the ability to interact with coworkers and clients," Nutt says.

Teaching soft skills

Louise Turcotte is the associate dean of schools of skills training at Cambrian College in Sudbury. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Soft skills are slowly becoming a part of the conversation in trades programs at post secondary schools as well says Louise Turcotte, the dean for the school of skills training at Cambrian College.

"It's a little bit challenging with the students, because if they've chosen a trade, they don't necessarily perceive those skills as being an important part of the curriculum, but it is," Turcotte says.

Cambrian College piloted a workshop module last year to provide students with more soft skills training. The module will be offered again this year. 

YMCA Employment Services has been approached by employers looking for this kind of training, says Rivest.

She says employers want to send new recruits to programs that will teach these skills as part of their orientation.

They can get certificates stating they have received training on soft skills.

With files from Robin De Angelis