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When guiding SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) learners in acquiring job skills, it’s crucial to kick off with soft skills. These are the fundamental interpersonal abilities that everyone requires to thrive in a work environment. They encompass aspects like teamwork, communication, problem-solving, self-determination, and time management.

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Soft skills outweigh pure academic and technical training in today’s society, particularly for SEND students who may face challenges in social and emotional development. According to the National Soft Skills Association, a whopping 85% of job success stems from well-developed soft and people skills, while a mere 15% is attributed to technical skills and knowledge (hard skills).

This article will delve into why soft skills hold immense importance for SEND learners and how cultivating these skills can pave the way for their success in the workplace down the road.

What is SEND? 

SEND is an acronym for special education needs and disability.

A child or young person, ranging from 0 to 25 years old, is considered to have special educational needs or a disability if:

  • They face significant challenges in learning due to a learning difficulty or disability that sets them apart from the majority of peers of the same age.
  • They need special educational provisions to be arranged for them, as their disability prevents or hinders them from utilizing educational facilities typically provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools.

What are Soft Skills?

When it comes to prioritizing job training, particularly when helping individuals with disabilities find employment, there’s a common inclination to emphasize hard skills while neglecting soft skills. While mastering the technical aspects of excelling in a job is crucial, interpersonal skills are just as vital.

Soft skills represent fundamental personal competencies, and their definition can be tricky due to the wide range of topics they cover. Examples often include listening, communication, and time management.

Top 10 Soft Skills for Employees

Before diving into questions like “How do you acquire soft skills?” or embarking on the journey of teaching soft skills, it’s beneficial to identify the specific soft skills to focus on. Different companies prioritize certain soft skills over others. Here’s a comprehensive top 10 checklist of employability soft skills:

1. Problem-Solving

Regardless of the job, strong problem-solving skills are essential. Team problem-solving fosters a culture of teamwork and camaraderie.

2. Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is integral to problem-solving and helps in strategic thinking and evaluating new ideas or opportunities. It involves looking at situations from multiple perspectives.

3. Professionalism

Professional conduct, encompassing appearance, speech, and behaviour, reflects the company. This extends to written and verbal communication with colleagues and clients.

4. Time Management

Efficient time management is vital for productivity. This skill can be challenging for some, and support from coaches, colleagues, or managers can be instrumental.

5. Personal Productivity

Internal motivation to perform one’s job well is a valuable soft skill. Employees can enhance this skill through tools like time-tracking apps and Microsoft’s habit tracker.

6. Conflict Management

Addressing conflicts is crucial for maintaining a positive workplace culture. Good communication significantly reduces the time spent on conflict resolution.

7. Communication Skills

Effective communication tops the list on most job resumes, as businesses value employees who excel in interacting with bosses, coworkers, and customers.

8. Positive Attitude

A positive attitude, capable of turning negatives into positives, is essential. It contributes to a healthy company culture, while negativity can impact morale.

9. Leadership

All employees, including those with disabilities, have the potential to be great leaders. Leadership training is a valuable resource for those looking to enhance this soft skill.

10. Attention to Detail

Attention to detail is crucial in various aspects, from emails to pitches to proposal writing. Identifying small but important details ensures nothing is overlooked.

The Importance of Soft Skills Training for Students with SEND

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Acquiring fundamental soft skills is essential for every worker, making it crucial to emphasize training objectives and a vocational skills list.

Individuals with disabilities, particularly those with developmental disabilities, frequently encounter heightened challenges in building connections with others. This extends to interactions with colleagues, supervisors, and the customers or clients they engage with.

In the absence of adequate soft skills training, people with disabilities may face significant challenges in securing or keeping their positions, potentially impacting their earning potential.

Tips for Educators for Teaching Soft Skills to SEND Individuals

1. Implement Activities for Soft Skills Training

Consider incorporating activities geared towards enhancing soft skills in the workplace. We’ve detailed tips on activity-based learning in a blog to guide you through this recommendation. Explore the blog to discover how you can integrate practical exercises that aid your workforce in refining their soft skills

2. Provide Opportunities for Practical Application For SEND learners

It’s crucial for all workers, especially those with disabilities, to have chances to apply their soft skills. The more opportunities employees get to implement their training before facing real-world scenarios, the more they can learn and improve in a supportive environment.

3. Utilize Role-Playing

Engaging in role-playing proves to be a valuable tool in assisting individuals with disabilities as they grasp how to navigate common workplace scenarios. This method enables them to understand facial expressions, determine appropriate responses during challenging moments, and ensure adherence to their training.

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