Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Dr. Anthony P. Chiarlitti

Second Supervisor

Dr. LaTasha-Hamlett Carver


It is acknowledged that proficiency in soft skills is necessary for career success; however, employers say that new graduates lack these skills. Nevertheless, there is scant agreement on what they are, how they are developed, and how they are measured. In addition, the literature on soft skills acquisition is limited to high school or college students and graduates; there is not much information on adult learners. The purpose of this qualitative comparative case study was to examine how soft skills are defined, taught, and assessed in adult workforce development training. The population in the study were instructors and program administrators in state-funded programs in urban communities throughout New York State. Data were collected through a survey, documents, and semi-structured interviews, and analyzed against three employability learning frameworks. The findings of the study indicated that the soft skills considered important to prepare adults for employment were related to communication, professional traits and behaviors, and teamwork. The skills were taught through coursework, career development workshops, experiential learning, and student advisement. Competence was assessed primarily by course and program completion and less so by placement into employment. Recommendations for practice include developing student learning outcomes and assessments with input from industry, standardizing curriculum content and delivery, creating opportunities for practice and reflection, and providing training and support for staff. Recommendations for future study include developing an instrument to pretest and posttest student soft skill gain, incorporating the voices of students and employers, and investigating how to teach soft skills in a virtual environment.

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