Teaching Soft Skills to Engineering Students: A Case Study of BITS, Pilani

By Shekhawat, Sushila; Bakilapadavu, Geetha | IUP Journal of Soft Skills, March 2017 | Go to article overview

Teaching Soft Skills to Engineering Students: A Case Study of BITS, Pilani


Shekhawat, Sushila, Bakilapadavu, Geetha, IUP Journal of Soft Skills


Introduction

Engineering education demands proficiency in both the hardcore engineering skills such as designing, computing, civil, mechanical, etc. as well as the soft skills. The significance of soft skills has acquired a global backup from all the institutes involved in technical education. Many technical professionals are not able to cater to the requirements of their job simply because of the lack of soft skills, also known as people skills. However, the trend has changed drastically in order to meet with the demands of hiring companies. The present paper seeks to highlight the integration as well as teaching of soft skills to engineering students at the undergraduate level.

Literature Review

Soft skills are considered as the basis of success for a professional, and several studies confirm this idea. Iyer (2005) validates the same idea when she says, "There is a lot of argument in industry as to whether it is possible to enhance soft skills in a few hours of training especially when one considers the fact that the person has lived with those traits all his life. To this, the answer is harsh but real professional who wants to do well in his/her career does not really have a choice". In the present context, certain skills are necessary not only to acquire a particular job but also for the sustenance of the same. Soft skills, also known as employability skills, are very important in the current job market. Consequently, it has become imperative to integrate it with the hardcore technical courses so as to increase the employability of students aspiring to become successful professionals. Hard and soft skills together constitute professional competence of an individual which allows a goal-oriented and situational accomplishment of working tasks (Kauffeld et al., 2003). Hence, the integration of soft skills with the hardcore technical curriculum is justified. Soft skills include emotional intelligence, critical thinking, giving feedback, problem-solving, report writing and presentation, project and team management (Pulko and Parikh, 2003; and Coates, 2006).

Soft skills are the skills which complement hard skills, i.e., one's academic proficiency. As said by Whitmore and Fry (1974), soft skills are important job-related skills that involve little or no interaction with machines and whose application on the job is quite generalized. In the words of Schulz (2008), soft skills complement hard skills to fulfill an important role in shaping an individual's perspective. Some of the soft skills are communication skills, problem-solving skills, critical thinking, ability to work in teams, time management, self-esteem, emotional intelligence, etc. Critical thinking is the mainstay of the most essential workplace skills and is a strong attribute in people with good analysis and problem-solving skills, ability to learn quickly, creativity and potential for career advancement (Chartrand et al., 2009). Soft skills comprise not only oral communication skills but also written. Hard and soft skills together constitute professional competence of an individual which allows a goaloriented and situational accomplishment of working tasks (Kauffeld et al., as quoted in Chikumba, 2011). Chikumba (2011) classifies soft skills into emotional intelligence, critical thinking, effective report writing and presentation skills. Further, as pointed out by Cook (2011), presentation skills are becoming vital at the workplace.

Methodology

The present paper is descriptive in nature and integrates the different components being employed to impart training to the students. It discusses the teaching methodologies used to enhance the soft skills of the students wherein instead of traditional lecturing, interactive teaching methodologies have been used to involve the students and create an interest in them to learn. Though there are other courses also which are offered to the students by Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at BITS, Pilani, the study limits itself to two main courses: Business Communication and Technical Report Writing. …

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