A Moroccan university professor makes the case for integrating soft skills development into higher education to better prepare graduates for a modern work environment.
In a world where hard and technical skills are straightforward to study, it is more important than ever for Moroccans to also learn soft skills in their university education. When hiring, employers do not just look at applicants’ technical knowledge. They will also ask about soft skills and personality traits that differentiate a candidate from other applicants.
Most applicants that secure job offers are the ones who make sure to illustrate not just their hard skills and training, but their soft skills and personal characteristics and habits. So what are these soft and hard skills, and why are soft skills so important to incorporate in Moroccan university curricula?
Defining soft skills and hard skills
“Hard skills [means] the knowledge and the technical expertise needed for a certain job. They are usually job-specific and are learned at schools or colleges (through education and training),” Mohammed V University Professor Abdesselam Ferrati, Ph.D. told Morocco World News in an interview.
Hard skills are usually what applicants focus on when developing their resume or when applying for a specific position. Of course, having the hard skills the recruiter is asking for is important, otherwise, you will not be ineligible for the job.
However, among the many technically qualified applicants that apply for the same position, you will need your resume to stand out. This is where soft skills play a big role in helping university graduates in their professional careers.
“Soft skills are the psycho-social abilities, interpersonal skills, and the personal character attributes that every individual has. They refer to all interpersonal, social, and communication skills that enable people to think critically, solve problems, and communicate well with others,” said Ferrati, whose scope as a professor includes business communication.
These skills have become crucial for any person’s professional life. Applicants that have a good set of soft skills on their resume are more attractive to employers than those who only have technical skills. The recruiter looks for the person that not only will do their job but add value to the company.
The difference between soft and hard skills
There are two major differences between soft skills and hard skills. The first is how you obtain and develop them, while the second is how they are exhibited and evaluated.
Hard skills are technical competencies that you gain through studying for a degree or diploma or through specific training, for example learning how to build machines or how to use a tool. If you took foreign language classes, you will be able to speak the language in a professional capacity. If you worked as a cashier, you will learn basic math and how to manage money.
Soft skills on the other hand are traits that differentiate one person from the next and that you develop through your personal life, for example how you manage your time or how to communicate with people in difficult situations.
When it comes to demonstrating hard skills, it is easy to give evidence that you possess a specific technical competence with a diploma or certificate. Soft skills are not as easy to assess. Just saying you have a certain soft skill is not reliable.
To showcase the set of soft skills in your repertoire, it is important to share experiences where you used these skills efficiently in your interview or cover letter. Recruiters will often ask questions about your experiences and test you in interviews to know more about your personality and interpersonal qualities.
The importance of soft skills in pursuing jobs after university
Hard skills are fundamental when applying for a specific position. For example, you should not apply for a math teacher position if you do not have a formal education in math. They are necessary for employment eligibility and to complete technical tasks.
However, having just hard skills might not be sufficient to secure a post, especially in an evolving, technology-focused field.
“Hard skills are not enough,” stressed Ferrati. “Without soft skills, it will be difficult to execute the assigned work effectively and efficiently. They are considered a complement to hard skills since they make it easier to form relationships, create trust, and dependability.
“They also enable teams to run projects and do business more smoothly,” Ferrati added.
“Graduates who lack soft skills feel more uncomfortable and usually give a discouraging impression about themselves. A lack of soft skills limits your potential and may even jeopardize your recruitment opportunities.”
Recruiters look for graduates with strong soft skills to streamline training and so the new employee can adapt to the work environment without too many complications while completing their technical tasks.
The need to incorporate soft skills development in university curricula
In Morocco, we will find many unemployed graduates with impressive degrees and diplomas who struggle to find or keep a job. Ferrati believes this is because most Moroccan schools and universities focus on teaching hard skills, testing the students on their technical competencies without giving much importance to the development of their soft and interpersonal skills.
In these dynamic times, Ferrati stressed that soft skills are important and should be incorporated into Moroccan university curricula, regardless of the subject. “Students will certainly need them in their academic and professional endeavors,” said Ferrati, who interviews university candidates for admission. “These skills are useful across all industries and job categories,” he added.
It is important to integrate these soft skills in Morocco’s higher education institutions to better prepare graduates and facilitate their transition from education to the work environment, and to avoid rejection and early setbacks.
“These skills will definitely reshape the inherent capacity of students, who are expected to prove themselves in this highly competitive modern world,” Ferrati emphasized.
Today, with soft skills’ rising importance, Morocco’s education system is starting to take new student-centered approaches rather than just focusing on the curriculum.
“Moroccan teachers are investing time and energy on soft skills training, introducing unprecedented changes to their teaching methodologies. They have already started to incorporate soft skills in the curricula bearing in mind the new needs of the job markets and the changes in work environments,” explained the professor.
“Educators, through education and training, focus more on those soft skills that can guarantee the effective performance of their students, namely communication, teamwork, critical thinking, problem-solving, adaptability, creativity, interpersonal skills, etc.”
Most valued soft skills
Communication: This is one of the most important soft skills in the modern workplace. In virtually any field, you will have to interact with other people, present your ideas, or negotiate with clients.
Teamwork: The ability to work well collaboratively requires many other soft skills, such as communication, good listening skills, leadership, and responsibility. All these skills help professionals in any fieldwork collectively and solve problems critically while listening to each other to achieve their common goal.
Adaptability: Being adaptable helps new employees integrate into the professional world easily and show their recruiters that they have the ability to embrace new tasks and challenges.
Creativity: Employers will often choose applicants with a sense of creativity to help in the development of the sector or company. Creative employees are often mentally flexible and able to come up with new, effective ideas and innovative solutions to problems.
Time management: Time management is a critical soft skill. It allows staff to balance responsibilities and meet important deadlines. Employees with great time management also work better under pressure.
Each of these soft competencies allow us to “effectively and efficiently use our technical skills and knowledge. For example, students who have the ability to think critically and analytically, both at school or college and in other fields, will not only behave in a professional way at school and in the workplace but will also leave a positive impression wherever they go,” said Dr. Ferrati.
Soft skills are necessary across all industries and fields. Integrating soft skills development into university curricula can help new graduates in their professional careers. These soft skills will allow them to look for the job, get the job, and keep the job with great performance.