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Knife and fork school
By David Bachelor, PhD
The commencement speeches are over. The Class of 2023 has entered the workforce. The news surrounding these graduates is: There are some subjects they were never taught. One of these untaught subjects is “soft skills.” The Class of 2023 is finding out that learning soft skills is harder than you think.
The dearth of soft skills in the syllabus is not just a problem on American campuses. The Kenyan edition of The Nation on June 8th had the headline, “How Lack of Soft Skills Hinders Young Graduates from Their Dream Jobs.” The article explained, “Soft skills include the ability to work in a team, the ability to effectively manage one’s time and multi-task, and the ability to maintain self-drive.” Regardless of a graduate’s technical expertise, the lack of soft skills tells potential employers a job applicant still needs to develop emotionally.
The June 16th edition of Forbes Magazine carried the headline, “Gen Z Grads Are Struggling to Dress Properly and Meet Deadlines as They Enter The Workforce after Years of Disruption. Colleges Are Trying to Help.” The article pointed out that this year’s graduates not only lacked soft skills but had embraced academia’s culture as the norm. For example, “One student even noted his surprise at finding office deadlines were harder to extend than those set for a college assignment.”
The same day Forbes had its piece, the Wall Street Journal headline read, “New Grads Have No Idea How to Behave in the Office. Help Is on the Way.” The article looked at how businesses are preparing for the Class of 2023 and notes, “To address deficiencies in everything from elevator chitchat to presentation skills, companies, universities and recruiters are coming up with ways to train new hires and give them clear advice.” This advice can be as basic as a handout on introductions that instructs these graduates to say their first and last name and then, “STOP! Let them [the other person] tell you their name.”
The book of Daniel contains a Biblical example of processing new hires. After the fall of Jerusalem, the Babylonians had their pick of the best and brightest in Israel. The head of their Human Resources department was named Ashpenaz who was instructed to hire young men, “…showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace” (Dan 1:4). It was Ashpenaz’s job to help the new class fit in by, “Teaching them the language and literature of the Babylonians” (Dan 1:4). Four individuals stood out among the new hires because they picked up the Babylonian’s soft skills the quickest. Their names were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. These four had an advantage because, “God gave them knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds” (Dan 1:17). At the end of their probation period the quartet was interviewed by the Babylonian king. The Bible says, “In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah ten times better than all the court officials and officers in his whole kingdom” (Dan 1:20).
Although the members of the Class of 2023 have received their diplomas, the headlines make clear that for those who were hired, they are currently in summer school. For these new employees and the rest of the class, in fact the rest of the world, the book of Daniel makes clear that we would all benefit from some time in God’s Vacation Bible School.