Empowering Learners and Building a Stronger Workforce, Fostering Economic Growth

Character and Soft Skills Development

Character and Soft Skills Development

Character development during childhood affects how a worker performs at his or her job in adulthood. It is important that students have a strong foundation in values as they face challenges and begin careers. Character development programs in schools help teach students values such as respect, justice, citizenship, and responsibility (Character Education… Our Shared Responsibility). Benjamin Franklin once said, “Nothing is of more importance for the public weal, than to form and train up youth in wisdom and virtue.” By starting character development programs, communities can become stronger as more citizens become involved.      

Through character development, students also often develop soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving. Soft skills are necessary to perform well in careers. According to a study, 86.6% of business leaders believe that communication is an important soft skill for their company, and 60% believed that the ability to work with others was necessary for success (Truang, Laura, Shaw, 2016, pg. 1851). These soft skills are developed through character development programs as students work in groups and come up with solutions to everyday problems. 

Character development not only prepares students for future careers, but also helps their academic and behavioral performance during school. Oregon State University did a study on character development based on the program Positive Action. Positive Action is a character development program that uses lessons and activities to teach students about relationships and actions. The study showed a ten percent improvement of students’ scores on national standardized math and reading tests after the use of the program. Also, suspensions and absences both dropped 70% and 10% respectively (What Works). Programs such as Positive Action are school-sponsored but require participation from teachers, parents, and students in order for the program to be the most effective.

According to business development leaders, the current workforce is deficient in character and soft skills (Loup, Kornegay, and Morgan, 2017, pg. 16). Character development programs help students develop values and work ethic that would reduce this deficiency. By starting the character programs in elementary and middle school, students grow up learning these skills and applying them to their lives. This prepares the students as they enter the workforce and benefits the employers because the workers are more skilled.


Character Education… Our Shared Responsibility. (May 31, 2005). U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from https://www2.ed.gov/admins/lead/character/brochure.html 

Loup, C., Kornegay, J., and Morgan, J. (January 2017). Career Exploration and Soft Skills: Preparing Students for Success. Association for Career & Technical Education 

Ohler, J. (February 2011). Character Education for the Digital Age. ASCD, 68 (5). Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb11/vol68/num05/Character-Education-for-the-Digital-Age.aspx  

Truang, H., Laura, R., and Shaw, K. (2016). New Insights for Soft Skills Development in Vietnamese Business Schools: Defining Essential Soften Skills for Maximizing Graduates’ Career Success. World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology 10 (6). Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/bed0/d44b48cf67e3ce086f271ae6690d66a1e7bf.pdf  

What Works. Character.org. Retrieved from http://character.org/key-topics/what-is-character-education/what-works/ 

Character and Soft Skills Development Research

Character and Soft Skills Development

  • Business and workforce development leaders have voiced concern over what they identify as a growing trend in the deficiency of soft skills in new hires. The skills most often identified as lacking are communication, professionalism and teamwork. New hires must be able to communicate clearly, work collaboratively, listen effectively, adapt quickly and interact professionally with their managers, colleagues and clients.

New Insights for Soft Skills Development in Vietnamese Business Schools: Defining Essential Soft Skills for Maximizing Graduates’ Career Success

  • Some researchers claim that soft skills account for as much as 70% to 85% of an individual’s success, whereas hard skills or technical knowledge contribute little more than the remaining 15% to 30% [9], [13], [35]. Other business recruiters consider soft skill capacities to be a factor of equal importance to possession of hard or technological competency skills, in career success [19], [27]. In addition, soft skills are recognized as being essential elements in total quality management in business today [10]. It is also argued that a high quality workforce who effectively use soft skills combined with hard skills, will significantly improve the chance of success in trading competitiveness for virtually all business enterprises [12], [25], [31]. Despite the varying degrees of differences on the perceived importance of soft skills for business success, it is incontestable that soft skills play an integral role in business success. (page 1849) 
  • Top soft skills need: Communication, Group-work, Customer service and flexibility, Interpersonal skills, Marketing, Positive attitudes, Responsibility, Market Research and Analysis, Negotiation, Business Ethics, Critical thinking, Time-management, Problem-solving, Interpersonal relationships, Professionalism, Self-management, Leadership, Technological Competence. (page 1851-1952)

Soft Skills: Preparing Kids for Life After School

  • While these soft skills are cited as integral to workplace success—according to CareerBuilder, 77% of employers say that soft skills are just as important as hard skills—college professors identify the same characteristics as important to college success. Young people who transition successfully from high school to college show an ability to manage their time, meet deadlines, get along with classmates and roommates, and deal with setbacks. 
  • People develop soft skills through socialization, learning the values, attitudes, and actions through interactions with others. Because socialization and relationship-building are a critical part of young adolescents’ lives, middle school is a perfect place to incorporate soft skill development into the school day. By adding this important element to instructional plans and classroom expectations, educators help prepare students for success after graduation. 
  • Communication, Courtesy, Integrity, Responsibility, Professionalism, Flexibility, Teamwork

Character Education… Our Shared Responsibility

  • Character education is a learning process that enables students and adults in a school community to understand, care about and act on core ethical values such as respect, justice, civic virtue and citizenship, and responsibility for self and others. Upon such core values, we form the attitudes and actions that are the hallmark of safe, healthy and informed communities that serve as the foundation of our society. 
  • Schools’ involvement.
  • Take a leadership role to bring the staff, parents and students together to identify and define the elements of character they want to emphasize.
  • Provide training for staff on how to integrate character education into the life and culture of the school.
  • Form a vital partnership with parents and the community so that students hear a consistent message about character traits essential for success in school and life.
  • Provide opportunities for school leaders, teachers, parents and community partners to model exemplary character traits and social behaviors. 
  • Benjamin Franklin: “nothing is of more importance for the public weal, than to form and train up youth in wisdom and virtue.” 

The Return of Character Education

  • If schools wish to maximize their moral clout, make a lasting difference in students’ character, and engage and develop all three parts of character (knowing, feeling, and behavior), they need a comprehensive, holistic approach. 
  • Act as caregiver, model, and mentor, treating students with love and respect, setting a good example, supporting positive social behavior, and correcting hurtful actions through one-on-one guidance and whole-class discussion.
  • Create a moral community, helping students know one another as persons, respect and care about one another, and feel valued membership in, and responsibility to, the group.
  • Practice moral discipline, using the creation and enforcement of rules as opportunities to foster moral reasoning, voluntary compliance with rules, and a respect for others.
  • Create a democratic classroom environment, involving students in decision making and the responsibility for making the classroom a good place to be and learn.
  • Teach values through the curriculum, using the ethically rich content of academic subjects (such as literature, history, and science), as well as outstanding programs (such as Facing History and Ourselves and The Heartwood Ethics Curriculum for Children), as vehicles for teaching values and examining moral questions.
  • Use cooperative learning to develop students’ appreciation of others, perspective taking, and ability to work with others toward common goals.
  • Develop the “conscience of craft” by fostering students’ appreciation of learning, capacity for hard work, commitment to excellence, and sense of work as affecting the lives of others.
  • Encourage moral reflection through reading, research, essay writing, journal keeping, discussion, and debate.
  • Teach conflict resolution, so that students acquire the essential moral skills of solving conflicts fairly and without force.

Character Education for the Digital Age

  • Schools have already started unofficially addressing digital character education in the form of acceptable Internet use agreements that specify virtual behavior standards for students. Although these are important, they are not enough. We need to create formal digital citizenship programs that deal with character education in the digital age deeply, directly, and comprehensively. 

Character Education

  • The findings from this study suggested that character education programs may have a positive effect on student behavior. Furthermore, the findings led to recommendations regarding the implementation of character education programs in elementary schools. Character education should be an integral part of the curriculum, not taught as a separate subject.

What Works

study by Oregon State University researchers found that Positive Action, a program that teaches social and emotional skills and character development to elementary school children, had powerful results: 

  • Academic test scores improved as much as 10 percent on national standardized math and reading tests.
  • Scores improved 21 percent on state reading tests.
  • Scores improved 51 percent on state math tests.
  • Suspensions dropped by 70 percent.
  • Absenteeism fell by 15 percent.