By Ayush Dev Pant

The education system which we have today intensively focuses on grades. Majority of students aim for higher grades with the aim of attaining a fine job in the future. But Nine out of 10 employers believe students should focus on soft skills, such as working in a team and the ability to get on with colleagues, as much as their grades. Grades are important, but they’re not enough for the work domain. 

Before I started my own company, I sat down for about seven job interviews and not a single interviewee talked about my grades and academics. All the questions were centered towards ‘skillsets’. I worked for two companies and the work I had to do were nowhere close to my academic knowledge and achievements. The academics definitely played a part in giving me theoretical grip, but I realized the soft skills which we could have had over the four years of undergraduate school would have been the magical wand in the competitive world we live in. Unfortunately, majority of the education system is not about ‘skills’. 

Pippa Morgan, head of education and skills at employers’ organization the Confederation of British Industry, said: “The value that individuals with well-honed soft skills bring to a business is indisputable. As this research indicates, business leaders are very clear about wanting to hire people with the right behaviors and attitude.” Soft skills include strong work ethic, positive attitude, good communication skills, time management abilities and other individual/team skills. Understanding and achieving these skills is not rocket science. On an average, students graduate from college at the age of 22. They start the schooling process since they are 4 years old. That is 18 years of schooling when we graduate as 22 year olds. If it’s a challenge for employers to find young and right employees for their company then there must be something wrong with the education system. 

Practical career guidance is under-rated. We learn about what to do but we rarely focus on how to do it. Our curriculums include topics like ‘strategic management’ and strategic management is for people who have management skills. If the issue is ‘decrease in sales’ the solution given to us is ‘effective and efficient sales plan’. But how do we make it efficient and effective? What are the tools we need to use? How will we bring the most out of the team? These questions go unanswered and when we deal with the employers our responses are as vague as the content of textbooks. 

There are different things we can do in order to be immune and competitive in the work domain. Voluntary programs can significantly help in developing soft skills. These programs give us the opportunity to interact with people who are from diverse communities with diverse life experiences. Attending skills development workshops can come in handy in short period of time. A friend of mine got a job at Amazon and her extra edge was the one month photography class, which she took out of boredom. She knew the basics of product photography, making it a pivotal element for a business which requires proper product presentation. 

Relying on grades for a proper job is not enough in this competitive world. According to Dan Black, director of recruitment at Ernst and Young “Grades certainly do matter when we’re recruiting students, but “a student with a 3.2 could beat out an applicant with a 3.9 if the student with the lower grades were working 30 hours a week to put himself through school and at the same time serving as class treasurer.” That statement was made in 2013 and the priority towards skills over grades has intensified with time. Theoretical and practical knowledge should go hand in hand. Theories are the result of practical findings and outcomes. Theoretical knowledge is a must for everyone, but if it’s not followed up with action and execution, we will never realize and reach our full potential. When the class is about ‘effective and efficient sales plan’ it could be followed up by a practical lesson from an individual who has succeeded in creating that ‘plan’ in the real marketplace. Create scenarios with similar situations in the classroom and analyze their response and actions. Thousands of dollars are spent to get that graduation certificate, but is it worth it when we have to start all over again when we actually enter the market? Hoping for the education system to change is not a viable option today. Realizing the importance of skillsets and taking action to enhance these skills is definitely an option.