Authors: Estelle Taylor
Abstract: Employers complain about a lack in soft skills among graduates from tertiary education institutions. Soft skills are becoming increasingly important as there is a growing awareness that technical skills alone are insufficient for success in IT. Do IT-programmes at university level make sufficient provision for the development of the soft skills of students? The aim of this paper is to research perceptions on the development of soft skills in the IT-programme at one university in South Africa. The paper starts with a problem statement emphasizing the importance of soft skills and the possible lack thereof. This is followed by a discussion on the terminology used, a list of important soft skills and reference to the relevant SAQA level descriptors. The module outcomes of the core modules in the programme was studied for reference to the development of soft skills, and qualitative analysis was done to report on the perceptions of lecturers and students on the development of soft skills. The development of soft skills is seen as very important by industry, SAQA, lecturers and students. Results of this study show that the development of soft skills is, in many instances, part of academic programmes even when not explicitly mentioned in the learning outcomes. Those responsible for the development of the programme should include more soft skills in the learning outcomes, so that development of soft skills can be done explicit, and care should be taken to ensure that the development of soft skills are at a higher level in each following year. In the programme studied in this research, more attention should be given to the development of work ethic and professional practice on first year level, and professional practice on the second year level. Results of this study also re-affirm that the development of soft skills is a complex issue.
Keywords: soft skills, higher education, information technology, programme development