How community colleges can close the soft skills training gap

Lessons in paving health care pathways

The health care industry is constantly changing through technological advances, legislation, and new strategic initiatives. As some of the largest employers in many regions and with a talent pool in need of constant upskilling, hospitals and providers are natural-fit partners for local colleges. However, what many community college leaders may not realize is that ongoing employee support in universal competencies such as “service orientation” and “patient focus,” now far surpasses demand for clinical and technical skills.

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In fact, a recent Advisory Board Company survey of 2,100 health care providers found that their top three entry-level competencies most in need of development were all soft skills. Why? Providers urgently need their entry-level workers to assist licensed clinicians so that clinicians can focus on providing care instead of handling general patient service needs.


Community colleges are typically perceived as strong in clinical and technical skills, likely due to their history in providing needed credentials. Clinical and technical skill development training is a point of emphasis in health care, with a rapid return on investment to health care providers. Yet, matching universal competency-based training with technical credentials can create opportunities for community colleges to increase their support for health care professionals at both entry- and mid-level careers and may be an overlooked part of non-credit program portfolio growth.

Grow demand for your non-credit training portfolio

While some health care providers conduct internal training in soft skills, many have expressed desire to divest from training as much as possible. According to one director of talent acquisition, his hospital’s goal has been to return training to the colleges.

"I have been systematically turning training programs back over to local colleges because training isn’t our expertise—it’s the education sector’s. That model made sense 30 years ago, but it doesn’t right now.”

In the search for more non-credit training partnerships, universal competency, or "soft skill" training in health care, colleges can cement their role in building the local health care workforce while furthering lifelong learning relationships with employees.

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