“Why do I have to take literature?” Substitute literature with history, philosophy, speech, math and many other subjects, and arrive at a question most college students have asked at least once. There are few people who would argue that going to college to learn a technical or professional skill is important, but the value of the so-called soft skills is often debated.
For example, it’s essential for nurses to know how to start an IV or for accountants to understand tax software, but is it necessary for them to know how to deliver a persuasive speech or to understand character development in a short story? How can taking liberal arts classes help them in their careers?
The liberal arts are academic subjects such as math, literature, philosophy, mathematics, and social and physical sciences, as well as the creative arts that are studied along with professional or technical subjects in colleges and universities. Liberal arts courses give students opportunities to practice communication and interpersonal skills. They also help students discover different ways of thinking; students may study related ideas in history, literature and art, but each subject approaches the ideas through a different lens. This helps students to develop their critical thinking skills. Liberal arts courses expose students to general knowledge across a wide range of subjects while helping them learn soft skills in the process.
Employers have long recognized the value of soft skills. The annual NACE (the National Association of Colleges and Employers) survey of industry leaders demonstrates this. To wit, the 2021 survey ranks communication, problem solving, and collaboration and teamwork among the top key attributes employers seek on college graduates’ résumés. In fact, the organization reports that eight out of 10 employers are looking for these skills. Other soft skills listed as essential by employers include flexibility, accountability, listening and interpersonal skills. LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends reports that employers say when an employee doesn’t work out, it’s usually because they lack soft skills.
The soft skills learned in liberal arts classes are highly transferable. They are used in every job, from an entry-level position to the executive suite. Soft skills can help advance in one’s career, and they are even more important with a new focus on remote work. According to Workable, a recruiting software company, soft skills that help employees succeed “no matter their seniority level, role or industry” have become essential in hiring decisions.
Tarrant County College recognizes the value of critical thinking, communication, empirical and quantitative reasoning, teamwork, social responsibility and personal responsibility, and computer literacy to student success and have woven them into the courses as core learning outcomes. Whether students intend to transfer to a university or to enter the job market after graduation, TCC faculty want them to be prepared. TCC’s focus on the soft skills in combination with technical and professional skills answers the question, “What do we want our students to know when they leave here?” It also answers the question, “Why do I have to take literature?”
Learn more about Humanities courses at TCC.