A Perspective on “Critical Skills”

In an examination about critical skills, a perspective is in order inasmuch as “one size does not necessarily fit all.”

This is true if the examination is about “soft skills” – SCANS, “Critical Skills,” “Skills for the Twenty First Century,” etc.

There are a variety of such “skills” as well as other skills that enter into the examination.

There are the “soft skills,” the “technical skills,” and “core competencies.”

Regardless of the source and descriptions of the “soft skills,” they are all virtually the same.

1. Soft Skills cut across industry and functional lines.

For example, the “soft skills” are needed for executives, managers, physicians, lawyers, academicians, etc.; they are needed in the chemical industry, government, steel industry, military, education, etc. My own research into the “critical skills” cut across industry and functional lines and in that context, therefore, they might be regarded as “generic” critical skills. The same is true for SCANS, etc.

2. Depending on the industry, Soft Skills might have different priorities.

For example, the “soft skills” might be listed in a different order for business managers, educators, physicians, lawyers, and airline pilots.

3. The “soft skills” or “critical skills” are NOT “technical skills.”

The technical skills are the kind of skills that are specific for a particular function – such as a VP-Finance or a VP-Marketing. In those cases, each would have virtually the same “soft skills” but different “technical skills.”

4. The “Soft Skills” and “technical skills” are NOT “core competencies.”

Core competencies are versions of the skill sets, BUT they are specific and are used to demonstrate the uniqueness of a particular business as differentiated from others. For example, the VP-Distribution for Walmart will have the same set of “critical skills” (albeit in perhaps a different order) than Amazon (each is in the business of retail distribution) – BUT the “core competencies” – what differentiates one from the other – will most likely be quite different between the two identical functional areas. The VP-Distribution for Apple will most likely be altogether different.

The essential point is that one should not necessarily get hung up on specifying an industry cluster when advocating the teaching, assessment and credentialing of the “soft skills.” That might be reserved for the teaching and assessment of the “technical skills.”

In developing programs for teaching, assessing and credentialing of the “soft skills” for a particular company, one most likely would have to initially determine in what order those “soft skills” are placed regarding their importance to the organization itself. This may not be necessary, but it is not hard to do, and would add credibility to whatever effort that might be put forth.

~ CC

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