Issues Ideas Educ.

Soft Skills for Young Adults: Circuit In The Formal, Non-Formal and Informal Models

Simeon-Fayomi B.C., cheatan, B.S. and Oludeyi, O.S.

  • Download PDF
  • DOI Number

Soft skills, employability, formal, non-formal, informal, youths, graduates

PUBLISHER The Author(s) 2018. This article is published with open access at www.chitkara.edu.in/publications

Adult learning for skill acquisition, employability, professional development and self-sustenance are key issues in the current globalised and dynamic knowledge economy. Smooth and successful transition from school to work for young adults means that there is an appreciable match between skills acquired in the school and skills required in the labour market. Continuous adult learning, soft and transversal skills development are necessary for this transition. With background lessons from the winter school, this paper focuses on comparative approach to different types of soft skills in the circuit of formal, non-formal and informal models of adult learning. Various areas in the circuit, different positions and definitions are examined within the context of adult education professionalization. The paper concludes with implications for future practices in adult education profession, and especially for soft skills development among entry-level young adults in the labour market.


The on-going globalisation in education has further echoed the significance of adult and lifelong learning at the international front. The advent of information powered society and of knowledge economy is transforming the demands of labour market, and subsequently educational policies, practices and professionalization. Such economy is based on creating, evaluating, and trading knowledge; labour cost is less important and traditional economic concepts such as scarcity of resources and economies of scale become more unpopular (Hendarmana & Tjakraatmadja, 2012). All aspects of lives have been altered, courtesy of technological innovation and advancement in adult learning. Electronic literacy and information resources, rather than material resources, are now critical to both human and organisational survival. New technologies are introduced on continuous basis and skills now deteriorate very fast due to rapid technological change and increasing globalization (Karabchuk, & Shevchuk, 2014: 74).

These fundamental societal changes have transformed societies from industrial into post-industrial societies in which “continuous knowledge acquisition” plays a leading role in economic growth and wealth creation (Bois-Reymond, 2003). Consequently among adult learners, adult education providers and professionals, there has been heightened interests on what learning should be (what should be the content of learning), what skills should be acquired (generic or technical), in what contexts (in formal, non-formal or informal) and within what duration (terminal/time-bound or lifelong). The reality for young adult entering the labour market is factual: there is now urgent need for more flexibility for companies when creating job titles, more frequent developments in labour activity, modifications of workers responsibilities within the company and even within the economic sector as a whole (BatallaBusquets, & Pacheco-Bernal, 2013). Continuous skill acquisitions of general nature become more important to both organisations and youngsters in the labour market.

In addition to technical, subject and discipline-related skills (hard skills), social behaviour, soft and other transversal skills are in high demand by employers of labour as complementary skills to hard skills. Soft skills refer to behavioral competencies, interpersonal skills, people-centered learning skills or personal attributes that enhance an individual’s interactions, job performance and career prospects (Onabamiro, Onuka & Oyekanmi, 2014: Durowoju & Onuka, 2014) and are considered the most sought-after skills in labour market of today’s knowledge society (Durowoju & Onuka, 2014: 608). Unfortunately, these skills are seriously lacking in labour market (Pitan & Adedeji, 2012: 90) because the curricular framework of many Higher Education institutions (HEi) still focus more on subject-related knowledge with less practical training that focuses on acquisition of soft skills for employability of young graduates (Cinque, 2013; Giovannucci, & Cinque, 2013; Haselberger, Oberhuemer, Perez, Cinque, Capasso, 2012). The study programmes of most universities in Europe and especially in Africa are still rooted in traditional scientific learning methods and little attention is given to soft and complementary skills. In the words of Giovannucci, & Cinque, (2013) many employers in the United States and Europe often claim that university graduates are well prepared in their disciplines but lack general and transversal competencies such as communication, teamwork, work ethics and leadership (p.31). This lamentation is more intense in Africa (Aworanti, 2014; Durowoju & Onuka, 2014; Pitan & Adedeji, 2012). Citing many documents issued by the EU and other human resources experts, Giovannucci, & Cinque (2013) posit that soft skills are closely connected with employability, particularly for young people entering the labour market.

Although since the Bologna Declaration in 2009 (Cinque, 2013; Haselberger, et al, 2012), there has been remarkable efforts, among adult education providers and practitioners, towards embedding the contents of soft skills in the curricular design and didactics in European Higher Education Area (EHEA), people are still losing jobs because of shortfalls in required skills. Across the globe, about 202 million people were unemployed in 2013, an increase of 5 million compared with the year before (ILO, 2014). This global unemployment is more pervasive in the East Asia and South Asia regions, which together represent more than 45 per cent of additional jobseekers, followed by Sub-Saharan Africa (p.10). Resulting from these continued trends, global attention has been shifted to HE institutions to correct the trending mismatches between skills and jobs (Cinque, 2013). The notion is that companies need a more skilled workforce and opportunities should be given to young people to develop soft skills, such as entrepreneurial skills, coping skills (i.e. the capacity to deal with a problem in a creative way) learning to learn and other skills that will help university students to make a successful transition from full-time education to entering the labour market (Cinque, 2013). Are the outcomes of learning activities, leading to effective acquisition of soft skills, limited to classroom activities, given its generic, transversal and complementary nature? As a component of lifelong learning outcome, which has to do with acquisition of self-reliant skills, occupational competence and active citizenship, the circuit within which soft skills can be acquired spans beyond the formal HE institutions.

Page(s) 99-112
URL http://dspace.chitkara.edu.in/jspui/bitstream/123456789/681/1/61006_IIE_Simeon.pdf
ISSN Print : 2320-7655, Online : 2320-8805
DOI https://doi.org/10.15415/iie.2018.61006

The transition from agriculture and manufacturing centric to service sector led economy has led to a paradigmatic shift into the socio-economic condition of the human life. Such a shift, demands new ways of thinking, learning and living while emphasising continuous learning for young adults and continuing professional development for adult educators. Soft skills development has become a new mantra, for one’s survival in this competitive environment. In this paper, we have examined the type and process of skill acquisition across formal, in-formal and non-formal modes. Comparative examination of the types and process across these modes are examined with reference to cases from Europe (Czech Republic, Germany, Serbia, Portugal), Malaysia, Nigeria and India. Critical perspectives from the comparative study, has resulted in providing a new definition of soft skills as ‘social toolkits for success in everyday life in different contexts’. The paper points out the need for a ‘new’ professional i.e., an adult educator having multivariate skills in engaging with the ‘new’ adult learner, in the emerging ‘new’ economic context. It has become imperative for clarifying and identifying the ‘competency profile’ of adult learning professionals With growing demand for soft skills development particularly for young adults, adult and lifelong education needs to endorse some of the following recommendations:

  • Industry-academia collaborations to engage in demand-supply of ‘softskills’ needed for the labour market. Further, develop public-private partnerships in establishing soft skills development centres enabling better access for young adult learners.
  • Establishing Career Service Centres (in line with some of the European countries), particularly, in the developing world, given huge number of young adult learners to guide them to acquire soft skills for employment.
  • Promotion of entrepreneurship skills among young adult learners, across formal modes particularly the developing economies and professionalise the soft skill delivery in the process in the non-formal and in-formal modes.
  • Provide opportunities to learn inter-personal and social skills within formal education circuit.
  • Creation of awareness among young adult learners of acquiring soft skills from their routine engagement with the family and society, seldom discussed in the formal and non-formal mode of learning.
  • Developing frameworks or strategies by which learning through everyday life can be enhanced and shaped towards specific soft skills development among young adults
  • Amon, S., Shamai, S., & Ilatov, Z. (2008): Influence of Socialization Agents on Leisure-Time Activities of Young Adolescents. Adolescence, Vol. 43, No. 170, Libra Publishers, Inc., 3089C Clairemont Dr., PMB 383, San Diego, CA 92117. Accessed on 17-03-2016 at http://www.csub.edu/~rhewett/english100/Arnon.pdf
  • Aworanti, A. O. (2014): Application of Modified Measuring and Assessment of Soft Skills (MMASS) Instrument to Nigerian Secondary/Technical Education. A paper presented 32nd Conference of the Association for Educational Assessment held in Livingstone, Zambia, 11-16 August, 2014.
  • Bandura, A (1972). Parke, R.D., ed. Recent trends in social learning theory. New York: Academic Press, Inc.
  • Batalla-Busquets, J. & Pacheco-Bernal, C. (2013): On-the-job e-learning: workers’ attitudes and perceptions. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 4(1) retrieved on 30-06-2015 from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1304/2417 https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v14i1.1304
  • Binkley, M., Erstad, O., Herman, J., Raizen, S., Ripley, M., & Rumble, M. (2010): Defining 21st Century Skills. Draft White Papers. Melbourne: Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills (ATCS21). Accessed on 14-03-2016 at http://cms.education.gov.il/NR/rdonlyres/19B97225-84B1-4259-B423- 4698E1E8171A/115804/defining21stcenturyskills.pdf
  • Bois-Reymond, M (2003): Study on the links between formal and non-formal education, Council of Europe Directorate of Youth and Sport European Youth Centre 30, rue Pierre de Coubertin F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex. Document accessed on 13-03-2016 at http://www.eurodesk.it/sites/default/files/file/doc_ pogiovanili/COE_formal_and_nonformal_education.pdf
  • Cameron, R. & Harrison, J. L. (2012): the interrelatedness of formal, non-formal and informal learning: Evidence from labour market program participants. Australian Journal of Adult Learning Vol. 52, No. 2, pp. 277–309. Accessed on 17-03-2016 at http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1000165.pdf
  • Cinque, M (2013) best practices for soft skills development at the undergraduate level: a European project. ICERI2013 Proceedings of the 6th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
  • Dib, C., Z. (1988): Formal, Non-Formal and Informal Education: Concepts/ Applicability, paper presented at the “Inter-American Conference on Physics Education”, Oaxtepec, Mexico, 1987. Published in “Cooperative Networks in Physics Education - Conference Proceedings 173”, American Institute of Physics, New York, 1988, pgs. 300-315. Accessed on 17-03-2016 at http://www.techne-dib.com.br/downloads/6.pdf
  • Durowoju, E. O. and Onuka, A., O., U., (2014) Best Practices and Experiences in Soft Skills Assessment in Oyo Town, Oyo State Schools, Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies, 5(5): 607–613 Retrieved on 07-08-2016 from http://jeteraps.scholarlinkresearch.com/articles/Best%20 Practices%20and%20Experiences%20in%20Soft%20Skills%20Assessment.pdf
  • Giovannucci, G, L. & Cinque, M (2013): Modernizing higher education: European University Colleges Association’s proposal to enhance students’ success. International Education Knowledge Community, Documents accessed on 13-03-2016 at http://www.modesproject.eu/files/fileusers/7632_ModES-KCSpring- Publication-NASPA.pdf
  • Haselberger, D., Oberhuemer, P., Perez, E., Cinque, M., & Capasso, F (2012): Mediating Soft Skills at Higher Education Institutions: Guidelines for the design of learning situations supporting soft skills achievement. Education and Culture DG Lifelong Learning Programme, European Union accessed on 13-03-2016 at www.euca.eu/download.aspx?filename=files/2282...final.pdf
  • Hendarmana, F. A. & Tjakraatmadja, J. H. (2012): Relationship among Soft Skills, Hard Skills, and Innovativeness of Knowledge Workers in the Knowledge Economy Era. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 52, pp: 35–44 accessed on 13-03-2016 at http://ac.els-cdn.com/S1877042812038943/1-s2.0- S1877042812038943-main.pdf?_tid=d3b1f054-e905-11e5-b358-00000aab0f01 &acdnat=1457864874_7293b6bdbc4b766f0935342c533445ae
  • ILO, (2014): Global unemployment trends: risk of jobless recovery? International Labour Office, Geneva. Document accessed on 13-03-2016 at http://www.ilo.org/ wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---dcomm/---publ/documents/publication/ wcms_233953.pdf
  • Karabchuk, T. and Shevchuk, A, (2014): Growing job insecurity and inequality between good jobs and bad jobs: an interview with Arne Kalleberg. Journal of Economic Sociology, 15 (4), 71–75 retrieved on 30-06-2015 from https://ideas. repec.org/a/hig/ecosoc/v15y2014i4p11-19.html
  • Kechagias, K. (2011): Teaching and assessing soft skills. 1st Second Chance School of Thessaloniki (Neapolis) Str. Strempenioti, 1st and 3rd Gymnasium 56760 Neapolis (Thessaloniki) available at http://mass.educational-innovation. org/attachments/396_MASS%20wp4%20final%20report%20part-1.pdf
  • Kentli, F., D. (2009): Comparison of Hidden Curriculum Theories. European Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. 1, No. 2 pp. 83–88 Accessed on 19-03-2016 http://www.ozelacademy.com/EJES_v1n2_Kentli.pdf
  • Onabamiro, A.T., Onuka, A. O. U. and Oyekanmi, S.A. (2014): Critical Stakeholders’ Perception on the Teaching and Assessing of Soft Skills in Secondary Schools A paper presented at 32nd Conference of the Association of Educational Assessment in Africa, at Livingstone, Zambia 11-16 August, 2014
  • Pitan, O. S. & Adedeji S. O. (2012): Skills mismatch among University Graduates in the Nigeria labor market, US-China Education Review 1, 90-98 retrieved on 5-01-2016 from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED530695.pdf
  • Sava, S. (2011): Towards the Professionalization of Adult Educators Andragoške studije pp. 9–22 © Institut za pedagogiju i andragogiju; Pregledni ÄŹlanak UDK 374.71; 374.711.34; ID: 187949324
  • Tight M (2002) Key Concepts in Adult Education and Training Routledge Falmer, Taylor & Francis Group: London and New York, Second Edition available online at http://gendocs.ru/docs/23/22969/conv_1/file1.pdf