Soft skills are coming to university

Aksel, 21, admits he had until recently “trouble for group work”, both at university and in his personal life. “I either wait for others to tell me what to do, or I tend to be a bit directive with them,” explains the young person enrolled in the second year of a language license at Lyon-III University. This is what prompted him to take part, in January, in the “Working in a group” workshop offered by his establishment. After three hours of role-playing, round tables and discovering some key concepts of social psychology with about fifteen other students, he understood that “90% of the job in group work is to ‘listen’ to others, really, not just ‘hear’ them”but above all that you should not be afraid “to give one’s opinion, to debate and to disagree”. Since this short training, his work experiences with other students “were much more positive”, he says.

Working in a group, communicating orally, managing emotional intelligence, optimizing memory, being creative: “These skills are not innate. They must be learned, because students are now expected to do so by recruiters…”, summarizes Nathalie Krief, vice-president of Lyon-III in charge of training, student life and professional integration. The list of workshops offered by the university largely overlaps with that of “soft skills”. (or behavioral skills), which employers now say they are looking for during job interviews, at least as much as the “hard skills” (technical skills), which diplomas come to sanction.

The transversal skills sought by recruiters in CVs

According to a study by the Center for Studies and Research on Qualifications (Cereq) published in June 2021, “The role of transversal skills in the trajectories of higher education graduates”, recruiters first value in job candidates the ‘ability to work in a team’, followed by ‘dynamism’, ‘ability to organize’, ‘sense of responsibility’, and finally ‘initiative’ and ‘innovation’ capacities.

“You can be a very good technician in your field, but if you don’t know how to organize yourself, manage your stress, sell or share your ideas effectively, you quickly find yourself in difficulty. And this, as a student as well as a professional”, illustrates Fabien Lafay, the head of the university’s success center, who has been organizing these modules since 2006. With “nearly 20,000 students” beneficiaries of these workshops, offered outside the model and on a voluntary basis by professional trainers or coaches, Lyon-III is a pioneer, while the question of the transmission of so-called “transversal” skills is gradually coming into the universities.

small revolution

In the universities of Lyon, Strasbourg, Nantes, Rouen-Normandy, or even in Paris-VIII, to name only these institutions, this trend has taken the form, for five years, of new optional teaching units (UE) offered to students to specifically develop these skills. But also pedagogical training for teachers, or time to raise awareness of soft skills during the year, specific university degrees (DU), etc. In addition to the growing interest of the professional world for these skills, regulatory changes explain this emerging enthusiasm. The license decree of 2018 thus recalls the importance of the so-called “skills-based” approach in university degrees. In addition to disciplinary, linguistic and professional knowledge and skills, it also includes transversal skills, such as “the aptitude for analysis and synthesis, written and oral expression, individual and collective work, project management (…) », specifies the document, which therefore goes beyond simple soft skills.

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