Many young people face barriers to participation across sectors, such as being thought of as less capable or knowledgeable, which limits their ability to build leadership skills and contributes to their exclusion from decision-making. When designing a program or activity, incorporating modules to build soft skills can promote better development outcomes for young people of diverse identities and backgrounds.
Soft skills are unique because they are transferable across development sectors, as well as in social and professional settings, and therefore can be a key tool for young people to gain the capacity, network, and motivation to assume leadership roles within locally-led development processes. For example, if a participant learns communication skills in a get-out-the-vote (GOTV) focused training course, those skills can be used to promote better health policies in a town hall meeting or discuss youth employment programs on local news, among other examples.
There are many soft skills that could be incorporated into programs to amplify the impact of youth contributions across sectors. In 2016, USAID analyzed the soft skills most likely to increase odds of youth success across all key workforce outcomes, which included: self-control, positive self-concept, social skills, communication, and higher order thinking skills. Similarly, young people in the CEPPS YAG found these soft skills as important to develop:
Ways to Develop Soft Skills
Be intentional about which skills you want to acquire and what is within your reach to improve. The CEPPS YAG suggested ideas below on how they gained soft skills that were beneficial for them in implementing cross-sectoral programs:
It is important to remember that soft skills develop over time, so be patient yet consistent in your efforts as you develop them.