Preparing Students for the Workforce

Today's students are tomorrow's designers, engineers, programmers, and scientists. Implementing building activities within the classroom cultivates both hard skills and soft skills that will benefit students in the workplaces of the future, both within the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field and beyond. Hard skills include the technical and practical skills required to successfully complete a task, while soft skills are the behavioral skills necessary for effective communication and collaboration. While hard skills are often explicitly taught, soft skills are mainly learned through experience and exposure. Let's take a closer look at what hard skills and soft skills you can help students cultivate as they complete robotics activities within the classroom.


Hard Skills

  • Coding:  As students construct VEX robots, they will learn to code the robots to complete specific challenges that align with real-world use cases. Through the coding platform VEXcode, designed by VEX Robotics, students can code using block-based coding or Python commands. As students develop competency in coding and improve their skills, they will grow increasingly prepared for the workforce. 

Fun Fact: The Python coding language is more important now than ever before, ranking third on the list of the most in-demand coding languages among recruiters. 


  • Scientific Inquiry:  Through conducting experiments, gathering data, and drawing scientific conclusions, students will grow in science inquiry skills. As students build robots and complete STEM activities, students have opportunities to observe, predict, check, record, and communicate outcomes. Scientific inquiry and analysis are important for employees across all fields. Through scientific inquiry and analysis, students will learn to formulate and find the answers to questions about the natural and physical world. For more information on fostering science inquiry, see these VEX Library articles:
  • Data Analysis: Whether students are completing industrial automation activities with the VEX CTE Workcell or completing STEM Labs using VEX GO, IQ, or EXP/V5, students will collect, analyze, interpret, and draw significant conclusions from data. With recent advancements in technology, especially in artificial intelligence(AI), data-driven decision making has become increasingly important in the workplace to identify patterns, trends, and correlations within workforce data.

Fun Fact: In its survey of 200 employers, Zety found that 53% of the employees say analytical skills, including the ability to analyze data, are the most important hard skills that a candidate can offer.  


Soft Skills 

The most important soft skills identified by industry experts include the following: 

Fun Fact: A survey conducted by Expert Market found that 28% of employees listed poor communication as the reason why they were unable to finish projects on time. 


Fun Fact: In a recent survey of CEOs, 60% of those polled cited creativity as the most important leadership quality.


  • Computational Thinking:  During the past 10 years, Computational Thinking (CT) has grown in popularity, including within K-12 classrooms. CT is the process of formulating and solving complex problems by breaking them down into simple steps; this problem-solving technique imitates the process computer programmers use to write computer programmes and algorithms. Key skills in CT include decomposition, pattern recognition, pattern abstraction, and algorithm design. According to educational researchers,“A primary motivation for introducing CT practices into science and mathematics classrooms is the rapidly changing nature of these disciplines as they are practiced in the professional world,” and Weintrop et al. (2017) states, “In the last 20 years, nearly every field related to science and mathematics has seen the growth of a computational counterpart.” The connection between computer science and robotics is clear; students have the ability to program their robots to perform complex tasks. While the performance of complex tasks may be the end, the means involve decomposing these tasks into smaller parts and then iteratively building them together to create a solution. Educational robotics can facilitate both the decomposition and scaffolding of complex tasks. To learn more about CT, see the following VEX Library resources: 
  • Adaptability:  Employees must easily adapt to change to solve problems and increase efficiency in the workplace. In the cutting-edge world of the STEM field where new technologies are frequently designed and implemented, employees must be able to respond quickly to change, embrace innovation, and build resilience. Through trial and error within STEM activities, students will learn to adapt their robot builds to meet new challenges, change their focus to new priorities, and create new strategies to overcome unexpected obstacles. Exploration and experimentation will be the gateways to continuous learning as students adapt their approaches to completing specific tasks based on new information. 

According to a survey of STEM employers, 72% stated that soft skills are as important as technical skills when making hiring decisions. This shift highlights the importance of well-rounded professionals who can navigate the challenges of the modern workplace. Through teaching STEM and career and technical education (CTE) courses, you can empower the next generation to succeed in the workforce within STEM fields and beyond. For engaging resources organized by VEX platform, explore the VEX Library's Education Resources, and join the PD+ Community to converse with educators from all around the world! 

1Avci, Begum."The Importance of Adaptability in the Modern Workplace." Medium, Skill Up, 2023.,both%20employees%20and%20the%20organization.
2 Chiangpradit, Lauren. "Hard vs Soft Skills in STEM Education. STEM Sports, 2023.
3 Expert Resume Pros. "The Four Hard Skills Employers Want to See on a Resume (According to Statistics). Expert Resume Pros, 2024. 
4 Nowsta. "The Importance of Data-Driven Decision-Making in Workforce Management." Technology, Nowsta, 2024.
5 Washington University in St. Louis. "Using Roles in Group Work." Teaching Resources. Washington University in St. Louis, 2024.,college%20and%20their%20future%20careers.

For more information, help, and tips, check out the many resources at VEX Professional Development Plus

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