Soft Skill Development in the Age of a Digitized Society

Soft Skill Development in the Age of a Digitized Society

By Jerry Rostad, vice chancellor of strategy and strategic communication, North Dakota University System

The first iPhone was released by Steve Jobs and Apple in 2007 and the world has not looked back.

Business and industry, education, healthcare, and all the rest have been leveraging new discoveries made by digital hardware, coded software, blinking lights, and data lakes. The current hot topic of artificial intelligence or more specifically generative AI promises to digitize our society even more.

The United Nations says digital technologies have advanced more rapidly than any innovation in history, just 17 short years removed from that first iPhone. Low-cost computing, the internet, and mobile connectivity has created what the UN calls the “Age of Digital Interdependence.”

However, despite all the wonderful new technical tools at our disposal, this digital interdependence has downsides. cites several psychological and social issues associated with the use of technology. Issues range from deficits in soft skills, isolationism, inability to focus, and expectations of instant gratification to name a few.

In turn, it should not be surprising to see these issues manifesting across society. The North Dakota University System – as part of a visioning of the future process – asked business and industry leaders across North Dakota to identify the most important skill needed for today’s workforce. Their top answer: soft skills.

Employers are looking for people with soft skills. People who can effectively communicate, personally connect, and work collaboratively with other humans. The need for people who can think critically and synthesize information cuts across all sectors of the North Dakota economy.

Unfortunately, interacting with digital devices does not lead to the development of soft skills. The more time we spend on our devices means we are spending less time interacting with others. This is particularly concerning with children during their formative years. Research is already starting to show that if anything, constant interaction with electronic devices is quickly atrophying the human development of soft skills.

That is why it is more important than ever to put down the devices and find a park or recreational program. Whether it’s running and jumping with others at a playground, playing in an adult hockey league or taking a birding class, parks and recreational programs lend to the development of both physical skills alongside soft skills.

More than 60 communities across North Dakota have active park districts while the state manages 13 state parks. There are countless golf courses, swimming pools, and skating rinks. Seasonal programs range from adult basketball, table tennis, and kickball to youth art classes, playtown and swimming lessons. Programming ranges from ice and pool events to family and art events. Collectively, these programs and activities naturally lend to human communication, connection, and collaboration. In short, they are a fun activities that contribute to the development of soft skills.

So, grab your family and friends and enjoy the splendor of your local community park system and the company of your loved ones. Your electronic devices will not miss you.