Author: Katie McPhee
There are thousands of STEM jobs currently open. However, there is a shortage of STEM professionals who have graduated from higher education institutions that are ready to work. While they may possess the technical skills required, many candidates lack the soft skills needed to succeed in the workplace.
This lack of work readiness is only one aspect of the global phenomenon known as “STEM Paradox”. It’s a phenomenon where there are more STEM graduates than are available, but they aren’t able fill the increasing number of STEM jobs in the workplace. This phenomenon is due to the fact that many STEM classrooms don’t give priority to soft skills because it’s assumed that students will learn these skills in the workplace. Unfortunately, many companies don’t see it this way.
While organizations need workers with the technical skills to perform the tasks associated with their jobs, they also need workers who are able to handle other organizational tasks. We have already discussed the six soft skills that every student should acquire before graduating. While STEM fields encourage critical thinking and problem solving, there is another crucial skill: empathy communication and teamwork.
Communication is essential in certain fields, but it might not be obvious in STEM fields. These skills are essential for STEM fields, as Julia T. Wood, author of Communication in Our Lives 7th edition, explains.
“Healthcare professionals must communicate effectively to describe medical problems to patients, discuss treatment options, and gain information from patients and their families… Even highly technical jobs such as engineering, computer programming, and systems design require communication skills. Specialists must be able listen attentively, work in groups, and communicate technical ideas to those who don’t have the expertise.
Empathy is essential for employees to be able adapt to different situations and communicate with people from different organizations. Wood explains that empathy is the ability to feel with others and adapt your communication to suit their perspective. This can lead to conflict in the workplace and can even prevent employees from being promoted or fired.
Although presentations and written reports are great for developing communication skills, empathy may require that you go beyond the STEM fields. A recent study showed that reading literary fiction helped people improve their empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence tests. This is especially important when trying to read someone’s body language, or to gauge their thoughts.
Working in an organization requires teamwork. In STEM fields, inefficiently working with a team can have devastating consequences. Julia T. Wood explains.
“Reports of surgical errors are not uncommon.” Poor teamwork among surgeons is one contributor to surgical errors. Surveys of more than 2,100 nurses, anesthesiologists and surgeons at 60 hospitals revealed that many teams suffer from poor teamwork. One of the most common causes of poor teamwork was doctors’ disregard for nurses’ expertise.
Poor teamwork is not only detrimental to employees, but also to the company as a whole. Organizations rely on their employees being able and willing to work together. They won’t hire people who can’t work well in a team. Conflict management is a key aspect of teamwork. As Wood’s text shows, STEM professionals who are unable to manage conflict within their teams can end up hurting those they’re trying serve.
Empathy communication is one of best ways to manage conflict. However, it can be difficult to maintain a non-confrontational demeanor while trying to see the situation from the other side’s perspective. This is especially true if emotions are involved. Creative group projects in the classroom are a great way to help students develop these skills. It best simulates the situations they will encounter at work. Students must defend their ideas in class without devolving. This is a great way to learn conflict management.
Soft Skills for STEM Success
Author: Katie McPhee