The school year is coming to an end and the 4 hour project is developing. Your calendar is full of activities. Looking back at this pivotal period, realistically speaking, a fair amount of learning happens in and out of the classroom.
Over the past few weeks, I have witnessed 4-H club meetings, projects and demonstrations. I’ve also attended countless of his FFA galas and viewed photos with year-end results from the Career and Development Competition (CDE). All of this led me to discuss the importance of soft and hard skills.
For some of us these are new terms and you may have heard them before, but it seems like the ideal time to actually provide a definition.
Hard skills are technical expertise. These are the kinds of attributes that are important for performance, receiving scholarships, developing a career, and possibly doing well in any competition.
Soft skills are even harder to define and even harder to recognize. These include interpersonal relationships, problem solving, communication, time management, conflict resolution, and more. I think of them as navigation tools that show you how to get from point A to point B. These aren’t instinctive for everyone, but they are possibilities. developed. These are essential skills because they are the skills we all need to be successful personally, socially and professionally.
As educators and 4-H advisors, we can focus on hard skills, but we must also provide a platform for soft skills. It requires intentional practice and opportunities for discipline. Practice may not bring perfection, but it is a process of continuous improvement.
Here county fairs, career development events, demonstrations, and 4-H projects can all fill the void while instilling a sense of belonging. I sometimes call it ‘find your niche’. When it comes to team events, we quickly learn that shared goals are important, and that a shared sense of purpose reinforces group and individual dynamics, even if it can be frustrating.
Historically, the Department of Animal Science has hosted FFA CDE events. Each one of us involved contributes expertise and resources to achieve success. On one April day, three events were held simultaneously. The most important detail is the connection we make with our future Buckeyes students.
Although the real teaching of soft skills takes place long before the visit, we hope they will remember our teaching and the warm and friendly atmosphere of that day under pressure and stress. Also, something like this happens whenever his 4-H events and programs are held statewide.
As a land-funded university, we are here for technical training, but equally important are the soft skills provided to sustain growth and maturity. I still sometimes refer to the “how was that” moment of the activity at the end of the event. It can be much more valuable than a scribbled evaluation form.
Each generation needs to be taught the value of soft and hard skills, but more importantly, control how they are introduced. If you start with the resistance of “I can’t do it”, how can you connect the feeling of “I want to try” to the result of “achievement”? The answer lies in our ability to help children feel themselves and instill a sense of belonging. It begins with our own journey, story, and growth.
As always, we hope to give you something to think about, regardless of your age or role in youth development.
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