Soft skills are crucial to Israeli tech maintaining its edge
“In the high-tech industry and other industries as well, emotional social skills have become one of the important criteria in the recruitment process and in the corporate culture,” writes Eran Feigenbaum, Oracle Israel Country Leader
Today more than ever, it is evident that the education system is eager for innovation. The associations between high-tech and education are very well established. We are used to hearing about how technology can enhance a student’s experience in the classroom, or can help prepare young people for successful careers once they leave school. However, one area that we don’t often hear about is the role technology plays in supporting emotional soft-skills.
Studies show that emotional-social skills are no less important, and even critical, to the students’ success – at school and in life in general. Soft skills, such as awareness and self-management, empathy and teamwork, have proven as contributing to achievements and success at school, at work, in relationships, in civil life, and increasing the happiness and mental wellness of students.
Workers with emotional, soft skills can add significant value to their organizations, which ultimately strengthens the Israeli economy. People who know not only how to manage themselves, analyze information and make informed decisions but are also able to empathize with colleagues, support the development of others and provide pastoral care are able to add far more value than simply doing the day job. They help to grow their organizations – not just the bottom line, but the teams and the talent.
In order for the Israeli economy to continue to maintain its competitive advantage in the world, the vision must be: to highlight the importance of these softer skills and then to equip as many young people as possible with these softer skills at an early age. It could be the added value of the education system in the modern world, and the high-tech community can certainly help with that.
An example of this is the SEL Challenge (Social Emotional Learning Challenge) competition that has just opened. This initiative invites the high-tech community and entrepreneurs to develop technological solutions that will help teachers teach and develop students' socio-emotional skills. This project was established by the 8200 Alumni Association, the Azrieli Foundation and the Ministry of Education, and in collaboration with Oracle.
This is particularly true when we consider the impact the pandemic has had on children. Over the last two years, our children have been educated via Zoom. This meant more screen time and less interacting with friends and teachers. The impact of this has been they have missed out on a lot of their emotional development. It’s imperative that we race to close the two year gap, which is one of the reasons the SEL challenge is so vital as it will help leverage technology to support this goal.
As I stated previously, the education system is ripe for innovation. There is both openness on the part of the Ministry of Education and a demand on the part of teachers and students to expand on the basic curriculums and teach the new skills that are absolutely vital for success in the workplace today. This has been true for years, but since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, this need for softer skills has accelerated. Businesses need to be aware of the challenges that employees have faced, and may continue to face, and people with softer skills are the ones needed to support their colleagues.
In the high-tech industry and other industries as well, emotional social skills have become one of the important criteria in the recruitment process and in the corporate culture. For example, at Oracle we have a global commitment to supporting emotional social issues as part of the daily routine of the company's employees. For example, our leadership teams undergo unconscious bias training, and for many of our internship schemes we run workshops to check that the people we hire are not only academically proficient, but also can work as part of our teams.
By 2030 about two-thirds of jobs in the labor market will require such skills, studies show. In the long run, it was proven that people with well-developed socio-emotional abilities experience a significant improvement in their employment rate and salary. And yes - studies show that for every dollar invested in learning such programs, $11 is returned to the company, hence there is a tremendous economic ROI to society.
It is known that investing in education is an investment in the quality of human capital in Israel, and investing in the field of emotional-social education will benefit twice as much, both for the economy and for society. Therefore, it is appropriate that high-tech entrepreneurs allocate capabilities and resources to the field of education. This is a first-rate national mission, and Israeli high-tech’s next mission.
The writer is Oracle Israel Country Leader, and a board member of SEL Challenge. Oracle also supports the Challenge as a partner.