The transformative power of soft skills gained by students through Riipen experiences

Have you ever wondered what really counts when entering the professional world? The answer might surprise you: Soft skills.
August 8, 2023
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In today’s competitive job market, businesses are valuing soft skills more than ever. As Allie Danziger, CEO of Ampersand, an organization focused on upskilling early career professionals that was recently acquired by Ascent Funding, shared in a recent Riipen webcast, about her early days hiring interns and recent grads, "I always loved the fresh talent, but really struggled with the young professionals not having the skills that I needed as a business owner for them to actually be productive and helpful." 

This concern echoes across industries worldwide, underlining a critical need to upskill early career professionals, focusing on soft skills. As Danzinger noted, a recent report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers highlighted critical thinking, communication, and career self-development as the top-most important skills for graduates entering the workforce, ranking even above hard skills. This study underscores the paradigm shift towards soft skills in today's job market. As Danziger puts it, "there's job titles out there that didn't exist even six months ago as it relates to AI and everything that's changing across every single industry."

Certainly, with all the dynamism and rapid changes in today's job market, and especially with the advent of AI, students need to capitalize on developing soft skills to stand out and succeed in the future of work. One way to achieve this is to take part in collaborative group projects, via work-based learning experiences while pursuing their studies.

The power of communication and collaboration

Riipen experiences provide students with the unique opportunity to build and improve these soft skills in real-world contexts. When engaging in Riipen projects, students are not only exposed to diverse areas of study but also get to learn from peers and gain deep insights through shared knowledge. A concrete example of this comes from the University of California, Riverside Extension, a Riipen partner since early 2021. Erica, a student of Dr. Nidhi Shah, an instructor at UCR University Extension and a Riipen champion, shared how her Riipen experiences had a transformative effect on her professional development. Erica notes, "The projects we had, and the assignments completed helped me overcome the fear of public speaking and taught me to open myself to new ideas when collaborating with peers," she said.

Sanders, another student, noted, "Soft skills helped a lot because in a team you must be big on communication. The classes and project helped me broaden my perspective and helped me with my career and personal growth."

The role of creativity and trust

Creativity, too, is an invaluable asset in project-based learning. It fuels original ideas and makes for more innovative solutions. According to Dr. Shah, "Soft skills help in encouraging and motivating each team member, by improving EQ in the team and creating empathy and a feeling of trust as well as better relationship with all team members." Theo, another student of Dr. Shah’s, noted that "creativity and communicating effectively with coworkers and peers in the group projects was the most valuable part of the experience."

The need for real-world exposure

However, building these soft skills isn't just about classroom learning. As Danziger highlighted, it's about exposing students to real-world situations, from emailing a manager to attending meetings. "Exposure is the only way that you can actually teach these things," she said, emphasizing the importance of experiential learning.

Looking ahead

As job markets continue to evolve, it becomes increasingly apparent that mastering soft skills is not merely a supplement to technical expertise but a necessity. As we look to the future, it's clear that platforms like Riipen, that provide opportunities for experiential learning, are pivotal in equipping the next generation with the skills they need to succeed in the workforce and beyond. They facilitate better communication, promote creativity, enhance collaboration, and foster leadership capabilities. The testimonials of students and professionals underscore the transformative impact of these skills gained through real-world exposure. 

Moving forward, the emphasis should be on creating more such opportunities for students and young professionals to gain, refine, and apply these soft skills, thus preparing them to thrive in their future careers. After all, as Allie Danziger so aptly put it, “true understanding and application of any skill comes from immersion and experience - and there's no substitute for that.”

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About Riipen

As the world's leading online work-based learning marketplace, Riipen makes it easy for higher education institutions and industry partners to collaborate on flexible project-based experiential learning opportunities by embedding real-life business challenges directly into the curriculum. To learn more about our innovative work-based learning platform and how working with Riipen can result in improved student engagement and employability outcomes, use this link to request a demo with the Riipen team.

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