The Value of Soft Skills for Students in the Age of AI

“How many years of college do you need to become a monster truck driver?” my 7-year-old son recently asked. As I explained that I wasn’t sure if there was an exact number required, I was happy to know he was already thinking about his future. And yet, it made me think about what I could do—what kind of skills I can help him build to prepare for high school, college, and a career.

Artificial Intelligence and the Changing Job Market

As parents, we are raising our children in a unique time. The jobs and industries that we work in today may become obsolete or completely transformed by the time our children enter the workforce. Artificial intelligence (AI) and job automation have already taken over many roles, and rapid advancements in technology make the future unpredictable. But studies show that AI is not replacing workers in jobs requiring soft skills—the “people” skills that AI can’t replicate or perform as well as humans can.

Preparing Students through Career Technical Education

So, how can you make sure that your child has skills that will make them a highly qualified candidate by the time they graduate? The answer lies in career technical education (CTE) programs that build hard technical skills in addition to essential soft skills, such as:

  • Professionalism and work ethic
  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Adaptability and active learning (essential to frequent changes in the workforce due to AI!)
  • Leadership, communication, teamwork, and collaboration
  • Passion, creativity, and enthusiasm

For more than a century, CTE has prepared students for jobs in a wide range of industries, including agriculture, information technology, health science, STEM, finance, transportation, and more. Students learn industry-specific skills through hands-on training, academic courses, mentoring, and internships. But not all CTE programs are the same, and unfortunately some programs lack a deliberate strategy for developing soft skills.

In fact, a recent study found that 94% of human resources professionals are having a hard time finding qualified candidates to fill job openings. And while not always the case, what they’re finding is that candidates are entering the workforce with underdeveloped soft skills—specifically work ethic, communication, and teamwork.

Project-Based Learning and Development of Soft Skills

As parents, we want to ensure our children develop soft skills that will make them highly desirable candidates who are less likely to lose their jobs to automation. One way to do this is to find a CTE program that uses project-based learning (PBL). PBL is a teaching tool that requires students to find creative solutions to real-world problems and complex challenges that often cannot be solved with technical skills alone. Through PBL, students learn to use technical skills in conjunction with soft skills.

And studies show that PBL is effective. According to the Speak Up Research Project, 76% of principals say that PBL builds collaboration and teamwork skills, and 75% of parents say that PBL helped their children build authentic, real-world problem-solving skills.

Many schools, such as those powered by K12, have made PBL a core component of their career prep curriculum. In these courses, students solve real-world problems with the guidance of teachers, who act as coaches and facilitators. This type of learning mirrors the experiences our children are likely to have in higher education settings and in the workplace, giving them a leg up after graduation.

In today’s changing job market, it’s more important than ever for students to build soft skills that cannot be replicated by AI. And as parents, it’s our responsibility to help our children prepare for the future by ensuring that they receive a well-rounded education that nurtures both technical skills and soft skills. By doing so, we can help make them irreplaceable in a highly technical world.

To learn more about the K12 Career Prep Program, go to

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