How Higher Ed Can Partner With Certificate Soft Skills Programs


The sentiment that colleges and universities are not adequately preparing students for professional careers isn’t exactly new, but it is definitely becoming more commonplace. More and more employers are reporting that candidates are lacking skills like critical thinking, communication, listening, and leadership, despite having earned degrees from reputable institutions.

If higher education is going to remain relevant and provide the return on investment that learners expect, they must find ways to incorporate soft skills into their curriculum and defeat this popular assumption. The question is, how can higher education balance the need to provide students with the technical skills their programs require and the soft skills employers are looking for? 

While some programs may have natural places for adding in soft skills training, that may not be the best way to provide students with expert training and soft skills development. Instead of starting from scratch, what would happen if higher education partnered with certificate programs that are already offering exceptional soft skills training? 


The Winning Combination: Higher Education and Soft Skills Certifications

SHRM interviewed Chris Kirksey, president of, who said:

"It seems college is graduating many 'book-smart' people with no real people skills or no real-world use of their knowledge skills. What's so great about a degree in something if you only know about it, and not how to teach it, use it, or understand why people want or need it?"

Soft skills certificate programs focus on developing the skills that many employers are missing in young candidates. Programs like LeaderU, Udemy, ACE, and Credly offer courses specifically targeting education on leadership, communication, trust, and other soft skills. By finding ways to partner with these types of programs, higher education can equip graduates with the combination of a college degree and proven soft skills that will make them successful in finding jobs and progressing throughout their careers. 

Partnering with programs that specialize in soft skills benefits higher education because they have specialized expertise and don’t add more workload to their faculty members, who would likely not have the same level of experience in those topics. But how should higher education be integrated with these free-standing programs?


How Can Higher Ed Utilize Soft Skills Certifications?

Creating new programming can be a daunting task in higher education, but partnering with a credible certification program can be an efficient and effective way to incorporate soft skills into learning plans. There are many options to add these to the traditional curriculum, including:

  • Online self-paced courses
  • Online or live workshops offered by certificate program facilitators
  • Certificate programs offered alongside or post-matriculation as workforce preparation
  • Continuing education programs offered as certificates or non-credit sessions

Administrations may be hesitant to add more requirements for students, especially in programs that are already demanding. Is there really a quantifiable benefit to adding soft skills training for college students? We believe there is, because proven soft skills are essential in skills-based hiring.


Aligning Higher Education with Skills-Based Hiring

Skills-based hiring describes situations in which employers focus on a job candidate’s practical skills and performance rather than giving priority to their degree or formal education. This hiring mentality rewards job seekers who are consistently upskilling, adding new skills, and keeping existing skills updated. 

Nowadays, employers are consistently struggling to find candidates who have proven soft skills. Certificate programs that focus on those topics are the perfect way for higher education to help students earn credentials that prove both technical and soft skills. By enlisting the help of a program like LeaderU or Udemy, higher education can encourage students to:

Earn micro-credentials that are validated and recognized by employers.
Study with teachers who specialize in their chosen skill areas.
Pass assessments that prove their soft skills to potential employers.

A critical skill for every new graduate is the ability to translate a formal degree into employer competencies that will help them land the job they studied so hard for. Partnering with certificate programs like LeaderU can help colleges and universities provide better opportunities for students to add skills that will truly set them apart from the competition in the workforce.


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