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Soft Skills – How they can give an apprentice the edge

In order to work in any occupation its necessary to posses some Soft Skills. As an Apprentice is usually new to the world of work it’s important to build up Soft Skills and work on developing these over time to gain a competitive edge.

Most jobs require hard skills or some specific technical knowledge that can be learnt in the classroom. For example, photographers must understand how different camera settings and lighting affect the pictures they take, teachers must be able to use certain techniques to teach numeracy & literacy, and computer programmers need to know how to use programming languages.

To work in any role you also need what are referred to as Soft Skills.

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What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are the personal character traits or qualities we all have. They make up who we are, generally encompassing our attitudes, habits and how we interact with other people. They are much less tangible than hard or technical skills, and unlike them, you do not learn soft skills by enrolling in a training program. You can, however, acquire them through educational, work and life experiences but it will take a concerted effort on your part.

Examples of Soft Skills

Verbal Communication: People with good verbal communication skills have the ability to convey information to others by speaking.

Interpersonal Skills: Having good interpersonal skills means that one has not only the ability to communicate with others, but is willing to listen to people without judging them, share ideas and pitch in when co-workers need help.

Writing: Good writing skills allow you to relate information using the written word.

Problem Solving and Critical Thinking: Problem solving is the ability to identify a problem and then come up with possible solutions. Critical thinking skills allow you to evaluate each possible solution, using logic and reasoning, to determine which one is most likely to be successful.

Active Listening: Good listeners make an effort to understand what others are saying, interrupting only when appropriate to ask questions that will help clarify the information being shared.

Organisational: Those who have strong organisational skills know how to take a systematic approach to every task.

Time Management: Those who are good at managing their time know how to schedule their tasks in order to complete projects according to deadlines. They are good at prioritizing their work.

Team Player: Those who are team players are cooperative and can be leaders or participants, as necessitated by the situation at hand. They are willing to share responsibility with other team members, whether that means taking credit for successes or responsibility for failures.

Professionalism: This characteristic is hard to define, but it’s very apparent when someone is lacking it. It’s probably the one trait that every employer desires, regardless of what you do or where you work. Professionalism encompasses many things including showing up on time, being polite, being generally pleasant and helpful, dressing appropriately and taking responsibility for your own actions.

Reading Comprehension: Individuals with strong reading comprehension skills have little difficulty understanding the content of written materials.

Flexibility and Adaptability: People who are flexible and adaptable react well to changes in their jobs and work environments. They have a positive can-do attitude about anything that gets thrown their way.

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Why Does an Apprentice Need Soft Skills?

Soft skills help you to do your job. They allow you to effectively and efficiently use our technical skills and knowledge. They improve the way you interact with your bosses, co-workers and customers. They permit you to get your work done on time. They influence how you feel about your job and how others perceive you.

Every single occupation demands that you have specific character traits and this applies particularly to Apprentices. An important thing to note is that soft skills are transferable between occupations. While you may have to go back to school to learn new technical skills if you change careers, you can always take your soft skills with you since they are valued in a variety of fields.

In addition to what is required by your occupation, employers also expect you to have certain character traits. Just look at any job ad and you will see a list of qualifications that includes not only the technical skills you need to do the job, but qualities like “excellent communication skills,” “strong organisational skill,” “team player,” and “strong listening ability” listed there as well. Even if you have the technical skills required for a job, if you can’t demonstrate that you have the specified traits you probably won’t get the job. Make sure your CV lists accomplishments that demonstrate the desired soft skills and that you also find ways to discuss them during your job interview.

Amy Smith

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