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Soft skills development for a successful future!

Linda Papasidero
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Soft skills development today is undeniably crucial for teenagers and young professionals who want to establish the foundations of an impactful future. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum and LinkedIn, the most important skill sets needed for jobs in 2025 and beyond are almost all soft skills. Having developed soft skills programs for young professionals and executives for the past 9 years, I wanted to confront this perspective with other industry and academic professionals from EHL Hospitality Business School and others to share their vision of soft skills and offer concrete advice on how to develop them in young people.

Soft skills vs. hard skills and business skills

Soft skills are notoriously difficult to quantify. They resemble personality traits, yet they are learnable behaviors and attitudes. People develop soft skills through personal experience and interactions with others, and they are transferable to any context.

Soft skills include: empathy, problem-solving and adaptability, qualities that facilitate constructive human interaction in all contexts. These qualities are, today, highly sought-after across all industries and job types not simply because they are key to successful personal/professional outcomes, but also because in an increasingly digitalized world, human exchange today is precious identity capital to be preserved and developed.

“Soft skills could be described mainly as skills that a human can do that a computer cannot.”, emphasizes Rachel Quandalle, Ermitage International School, Career Advisor.

On the other hand, hard skills or technical skills can be acquired at school or during training. They are content-based and centered on the tools and techniques required to perform certain functions.

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Importance of soft skills today and in the future

The different industry and academic experts agree on the stronger importance of soft skills for youngsters today. The shift is most visible in today’s job market.

“Today, employers make decisions based on a mix of hard and soft skills, whereas, in the past, the emphasis was put on purely hard skills as well as academic degrees.” explains Naomi Depaux, EHL Senior Admissions Manager.

Likewise, schools have begun developing soft skills on an academic level. If students can’t think critically, communicate, collaborate and organize their schoolwork, they have little hope for success in the professional world.

“Soft skills will keep evolving especially with the virtual communication that youngsters adopt nowadays. Soft skills development today is indispensable for young peoples’ integration in society and the job market” declares Regis Gaunet, an EHL Alumnus of 1993.

Soft skills young people have and the ones they need

Most teenagers and young professionals have soft skills from the home and school environment, extra-curricular activities, and virtual communication tools that they favor. For example, many of today’s youngsters are already good at communication and cultural awareness. They often have the capacity to build excellent rapport with others. However, our panel of experts agreed that youngsters must develop some soft skills further, such as:

• Teamwork and collaboration
• Communication skills
• Empathy, manners, and business etiquette
• Interaction with different cultures and personalities
• Creativity and critical thinking

These soft skills are in line with the top 10 hospitality and tourism soft skills that has EHL identified.

 

How to improve soft skills

Teenagers often have low confidence in certain soft skills areas and they also have low appreciation of how important they are. Youngsters need to understand the immediate benefits in order to grasp the value of learning a specific subject or skill. Therefore, it is difficult for some teenagers to measure the importance of soft skills and see the long-term investment with a long-term payout.

Soft skills emerge in the home environment during a child’s formative years, but these skills grow the fastest for teens in the school environment through peer interaction. At this age, they also develop easily online because teens today appreciate virtual games and social media. Learning new skills on the internet is possible - however, it is by confronting your learnings with like-minded participants, interacting and observing that these skills are perfected.


Pre-university courses with a hospitality focus, such as EHL Academy programs, are designed to develop key soft skills for future academic and professional success. These courses help young people to develop transferable soft skills with immediate benefits, such as:

  • Developing their people skills and leadership mindset
  • Boosting their CV to stand out on application forms
  • Meeting like-minded young people from other countries
  • Networking and learning with industry experts
  • Opening their career horizons
  • Defining their ideal university program and location
  • Applying academic theory in a real-life context
  • Practicing verbal and non-verbal communication skills

“The great thing about summer courses is that they are short & sweet! You can identify your interests, make new friends, and benchmark yourself” says Patrik Bruhlmann, Group CEO & Director of the Board, Pacific Healthcare Group of Companies

Other ways to develop soft skills for young people

Additionally, it is important for young people to develop their soft skills through volunteer work, extracurricular activities, work experience, internships, and other activities that push them out of their comfort zone. Hamid Banna, an EHL Alumnus of 1975 and hospitality consultant, underlines that extracurricular activities confront the young generation with real situations, to make them sensitive to interactions with others, and teach them to adapt and act according to the situation with emotional intelligence.

In conclusion, it’s clear that developing soft skills offers multiple benefits for teenagers, including the advantage of clarifying their strengths and career choices and widening their opportunities. The discussions I conducted with the different industry and academic experts confirmed that soft skills' development is the way to go! Moreover, soft skills are qualities that universities and employers will value even more in the future.

It clearly brands the young and positions them as open-minded and curious individuals. However, coaching and mentoring by family, school, sports instructors, and friends are key to instill the importance of soft skills' development in the young generation to guide them in the creation of their future career.

 
Written by

Head EHL Academy programmes-Consultant, EHL Advisory Services

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