Recent research shows that soft skills can have a greater impact on an individual’s employment, earnings, and overall well-being than job-specific technical skills. In fact, employers globally report difficulty filling jobs because new recruits often lack soft skills. According to Child Trends, soft skills include “competencies, behaviors, attitudes and personal qualities that enable people to effectively navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well, and achieve their goals.” Researchers, educators and youth development practitioners use varying frameworks to classify the ‘most important’ soft skills. This is demonstrated by the multitude of names often considered synonymous with soft skills, including: non-cognitive, workforce readiness, life, behavioral, and 21st century skills (among others). Examples of the most valuable types of soft skills to youth and adult success are: social skills, communication skills, problem solving, critical thinking, self-control, and positive self-concept.


How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character

Paul Tough

How character is formed has been a topic of interest for a long time. But if we are to guide children and youth towards success in adulthood we need to explore the question, “Are these traits teachable?”. In How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, Paul Tough determines that qualities, also called non-cognitive skills - such as persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit and self-confidence - are the key drivers behind why some children do better than others as adults.

Workforce Connections Community of Practice: The Challenge of "Soft Skills" Measurement: Toward a Common Approach

Workforce Connections (USAID, FHI 360, Child Trends, Making Cents International, and RTI International)

This blog post includes downloadable presentation materials from the May 28, 2014 Workforce Connections Community of Practice launch event, The Challenge of "Soft Skills" Measurement: Toward a Common Approach.

Competencies Connecting Youth to Work

Child Trends, Workforce Connections

As part of Workforce Connections' first event: The Challenge of "Soft Skills" Measurement: Toward a Common Approach, Child Trends’ Laura Lippman, Kristin Moore, and Renee Ryberg gave this presentation previewing a Workforce Connections initiative to develop a common conceptual framework for soft and noncognitive skills measurement in international workforce development, based on a review of empirical evidence and other relevant literature, and in consultation with key stakeholders.

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Scan and Review of Youth Development Measurement Tools

USAID, JBS International, Inc.

A central constraining issue in the field of youth workforce development is the lack of consensus about how to measure soft and life skills, or “work readiness.” USAID’s Education Office asked JBS International, Inc. to scan and review tools designed to measure developmental assets, workforce readiness skills, and life skills – all areas identified as key stepping stones for young people to achieve positive life outcomes, particularly gainful employment.

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Getting Youth in the Door: Defining Soft Skills Requirements for Entry-level Service Sector Jobs


This report presents findings on the current soft skills training landscape within the service sector. The report includes what basic soft skills competencies are required for a diverse group of entry-level employees with varying levels of education and experience; where gaps in those skills exist; what the soft skills marketplace is offering; and where opportunities for further training exist.


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Soft Skills in Youth Empowerment


TechnoServe explored the question "How Do We Help Youth Build a Foundation to Unleash Their Potential?" under the Youth Enterprise Development track at the 2013 Global Youth Economic Opportunities Conference. They presented data and results from the STRYDE project in Kenya that has seen great success in increasing employment and the start of personal businesses for youth.

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Video Vignettes Illustrate ‘Soft Skills’ all Young Workers Need, Says U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.

U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy

Youth services programs, educators and others helping young job seekers prepare for employment are encouraged to view, display, share and lead discussions about the videos, which aim to help all youth, including those with disabilities, develop and strengthen six essential skills needed to succeed in today's workforce: communication, networking, enthusiasm and attitude, teamwork, problem-solving and critical thinking, and professionalism. 

How Do We Measure Soft Skill Acquisition?


"How Do We Measure Soft Skill Acquisition?" was presented under the Workforce Development track at the 2012 Global Youth Economic Opportunities Conference. This presentation, examines proven approaches, tools, and methodologies for teaching “soft skills” for the workplace. 

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Youth and Employment in Post-Conflict Countries: The Psycho-Social Dimension

Human Development Network, The World Bank

Youth in at-conflict countries have often been involved both as victims and perpetrators of violence, responding to war and its effects in different ways. Not all individuals directly affected by conflict will develop long-term stress-related symptoms. However, those who do may be greatly and possibly even permanently affected, which limits the ability to find and keep a job. In turn, productive employment may contribute to the recovery of affected individuals and reduce the likelihood of their being drawn into future violence, thereby contributing to stability and peace building.

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