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Learning patterns mustchange, say employers

Major employers believe "soft" skills such as team building are as important as academic qualifications. Among Scottish-based personnel managers almost 90 per cent think that young people entering employment lack such skills.

A report by Austin Knight, the recruitment and communications organisation, sought the views of 1,500 personnel managers in blue-chip companies across the UK. The Scottish findings mirrored those of the rest of the country.

Nine out of 10 believe that soft skills are as important as academic qualifications and almost all say that such skills, which include networking, problem-solving, listening and speaking, ought to be taught alongside the traditional academic curriculum.

The research, which is intended to point up the needs of businesses in the new millennium, showed differing attitudes to the strengths of men and women employees. A substantial majority refused to accept the statement that "women have better developed persuasion skills than men". But only 12 per cent would subscribe to the idea "that men have better developed leadership skills than women".

The questionnaire included the statement that "the current emphasis on soft skills is just another fad that will pass". Only 2 per cent of Scottish personnel managers agreed. Anne Riley, chief executive of Austin Knight, called on the Government, the education sector and employers to work together to develop non-academic skills.

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